Thursday, May 23, 2013

City of Pierre v. Blackwell case brief

City of Pierre v. Blackwell case brief 635 N.W.2d 581

CASE SYNOPSIS: The defendant was the owner of a dog declared by an animal control officer to be "dangerous" pursuant to Pierre, S.D., City Ordinance §10-3-111 and was convicted in the Circuit Court of Hughes County (South Dakota).The defendant appealed his conviction on the basis that the ordinances themselves were unconstitutional and that his constitutional right to procedural due process has been violated.

FACTS: The only issue at trial was the dog's dangerousness. The trial court concluded that an independent factual determination of the dog's disposition was not appropriate, and therefore merely reviewed the animal control officer's determination for its legality. The supreme court held the ordinances at issue advanced a legitimate public safety objective and were neither unreasonable or arbitrary on their face. But, the trial court's ruling under Pierre, S.D., City Ordinance §§10-3-111 and 10-3-117 operated to deprive defendant of a protected property interest in his dog and absent exigent circumstances, the City was required to provide him with notice, an opportunity to be heard and a proper criminal adjudication by a judicial officer. The requirement of notice and an opportunity to be heard were not disputed. The requirement of a hearing by a disinterested judicial officer, however, was not satisfied. Because the City brought criminal as opposed to civil charges the defendant was entitled to a due process hearing on the issue of dangerousness and the City was required to prove, as an element of the crime, that the dog was dangerous beyond a reasonable doubt, which it had not done.

CONCLUSION: The trial court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for determination on the factual issue of the dog's dangerousness.

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