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ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer signaling a driver to back up constitutes a "seizure" and that officers must have a legitimate reason for doing so before making an arrest.
In a decision released Friday, justices intervened in a drunk driving case, sending the matter back to the trial judge to determine whether the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the driver.
The case involved the arrest and conviction of Anton Majaev in October 2004 outside Homer.
Alaska State Trooper Travis Bordner responded to a call of an underage drinking party at a road turnout that was the site of previous drinking parties. When he pulled up, 20 to 30 people scattered into the woods.
Bordner parked his patrol car 10 feet from the driver's side of Majaev's truck and Majaev drove away as Bordner walked toward him. Bordner stepped into the road to see the license plate and Majaev stopped 30 to 50 feet away. The officer realized that Majaev could see him in his driver's side mirror and waved him back to talk.
Majaev backed up and rolled down his window. Bordner smelled alcohol and spotted beer cans in the back of the truck. Majaev failed sobriety tests and was charged with driving under the influence.
He appealed, claiming he had been subjected to an unlawful seizure. The Alaska Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.