Despite numerous attempts to subject the use of pretext law enforcement stops to Alaska Constitutional scrutiny, the issue has never been thoroughly reviewed. Alaska courts currently allow pretext investigative stops so long as a reasonable officer following permissible police practices could have made the stop for the proffered reason. This is a minority position, inconsistent with federal law which deems pretext motivations constitutionally irrelevant. It is also far less protective of individual rights than an outright ban on officer pretext. This reasonable officer standard, however, offers some advantages over banning all types of pretext. This Article explores Alaska's historical treatment of pretext justifications, discusses why pretext is prominent in police work, documents some of the leading arguments against pretext, and frames the issue in light of an opportunity to balance competing policy concerns. After considering precedent, reason, and policy, the authors urge the Court of Appeals to continue use of the reasonable officer standard, because it strikes the best balance between governmental, societal, and individual concerns. Nevertheless, the Article argues that the standard should be refined and suggests a workable test for determining when pretext stops are outside acceptable police practices.
Jeff D. May et al.,
Pretext Searches and Seizures: In Search of Solid Ground,
30 Alaska Law Review
Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/alr/vol30/iss2/2