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Civil Rights Action Arising out of Traffic Violation, and Criminal Matter

By FindLaw Staff on July 28, 2010 9:18 AM

Mills v. City of Grand Forks, No. 09-2119, concerned a federal civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 against the City of Grand Forks claiming that the City, in fining plaintiff for a traffic violation under a city ordinance, with the fine exceeding the amount of money authorized under North Dakota state law, violated various federal constitutional rights.  The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the complaint on the grounds that 1) even if the City in fact violated state law, a mere violation of a state law does not give rise to a federal due process violation; 2) based on plaintiff's own pleadings, it appeared that all drivers cited for careless driving received the same fine, and thus, the City treated similar offenders the same; and 3) plaintiff did not show that the City's fines were grossly disproportionate in a constitutional sense.

In US v. Carlson, No. 09-2119, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiring to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, holding that 1) the coercive aspects of a police interview were largely irrelevant to the custody determination except where a reasonable person would perceive the coercion as restricting his or her freedom to depart; 2) there were no exceptional circumstances warranting an evidentiary hearing regarding allegedly newly discovered evidence; and 3) to the extent defendant was raising ineffective assistance of counsel, such a claim should be pursued in a 28 U.S.C. section 2255 proceeding.

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