Court Ruling Casts Doubt on Vegas Police 'Downtown Initiative'

LAS VEGAS (AP) - In a ruling that raises new questions about a Las Vegas policy policy targeting street crime, the Nevada Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a man stopped for jaywalking and arrested on a drug charge.

The court ruled that Michael Dulin-Evans can withdraw his plea of guilty to a drug charge - a plea made despite questions about the legality of his search and arrest.

In a Monday order, a three-justice panel reversed Clark County District Court Judge Donald Mosley's 2006 denial of Dulin-Evans' attempt to withdraw his plea based on a claim that he wasn't provided good legal advice.

Justices also said the case should go to a different judge, adding they were "troubled" that Mosley's said he hadn't read a prior Supreme Court order requiring a second evidentiary hearing in Dulin-Evans' case.

The Supreme Court order didn't resolve questions raised before Mosley about the legality of Dulin-Evans' search and arrest under a police "Downtown Area of Command Strategic Initiative" - although the order described the arrest under that initiative as "highly questionable."

Allen Lichtenstein, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said the ruling suggested the court sees constitutional flaws in the policy, which calls for arrests rather than summonses for people with criminal histories.

Dulin-Evans was stopped for jaywalking in 2005 by a police officer who then arrested him based on the downtown initiative. A search revealed Dulin-Evans possessed controlled substances, two hypodermic needles and money.

In its earlier review of the case, the state high court said the police officer's reason for arresting and searching Dulin-Evans, the Downtown Initiative, appeared to violate Nevada law. The court said Mosley should have heard Dulin-Evans' request to withdraw his guilty plea.

At a subsequent hearing before Mosley, Dulin-Evans' lawyer said a motion to suppress evidence from the search wasn't heard because
Dulin-Evans took a plea deal. The deal enabled him to avoid the possibility of being found a habitual criminal, which would have carried an additional penalty.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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