Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Stephenson, 535 P.2d 940 (Kan. 1975).
This case addresses the following issue:
How important is the date that the warrant was issued?
This case explored the question of the importance of a correct date on an issued warrant.
In exploring this question in the defendant’s case, the court found that it appeared the dates were both typographical errors; therefore, the warrant was not invalid and the arrest was legal. Id. at 942.
On January 6, 1974, the defendant was discovered in a basement stairway of a residence hall at the Kansas State Teachers’ College of Emporia by the hall director. Id. The hall had been closed for the holiday season and all the doors chained except one. Id. After asking the defendant to leave, the hall director reported the encounter to the Emporia police, and signed a complaint charging the defense with trespass. Id. Upon further investigation, the hall director found a broken window in the basement laundry room and a crowbar inserted into a cigarette machine. Also, there were tracks in the snow leading to the broken window and none leading away. Id. On January 10, 1974, the defendant was arrested on the city’s misdemeanor trespass charge and brought to the police station. Id. After being informed of his constitutional rights, the defendant admitted that he broke into the building and attempted to break into the cigarette machine with the crowbar. Id. In the end, the defendant was convicted of burglary and attempted theft. Id.
The defendant argued that his arrest was illegal and his subsequent conviction was invalid due to a discrepancy in dates appearing on various documents in the county court records. Id. The affidavit (written sworn statement) and return on the warrant indicated that the warrant was issued to and received by the sheriff on January 10. Id. However, the warrant itself bore the date January 11. Id. Moreover, no explanation for the discrepancy appeared in the record, the briefs, or the arguments of counsel. Id. With this in mind, the defendant argued that the affidavit was made the day after the warrant was received by the sheriff, and therefore could not have provided a basis for the necessary finding of reasonable grounds to make the arrest. Id. Therefore, the defendant argued that his arrest was illegal and his conviction was invalid. Id.
The court examined the defendant’s argument and determined that there were several things wrong about it. Id. First, the court determined that the defendant did not explain how he could have been arrested on Jaunary 10 if the warrant was in fact issued January 11. Id. In fact, the court noted that it seemed more likely that the January 11 date appearing on the warrant-admittedly in existence on January 10 and on the supporting affidavit were both typographical errors. Id. Further, the court found that the record was simply too insufficient to conclude that the warrant was in fact issued without a finding of reasonable grounds to make the arrest. Id. Second, the court stated that the defendant demonstrated no prejudice which would affect his conviction. Id. The court went on to further say that an illegal arrest, standing alone, was not enough. Id. Third, the court concluded that the record disclosed no effort to raise the point of an illegal arrest due to a discrepancy in dates so it could not be considered. Id. at 942-43.