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. Overton, 112 P.3d 244 (Kan. 2005).
This case addresses the following issue:
What is the purpose of issuing an arrest warrant?
This case explored the issue of determining the purpose of issuing an arrest warrant. In addressing this issue, the court found that the purpose for issuing a warrant or summons was to provide the accused with actual notice of the charge or charges against him or her and to ensure that the accused appeared before the court for further proceedings. Id. at 249.
The defendant, an eighth-grade science teacher, was charged with rape and aggravated indecent liberties with three of his female students. Id. at 247. The defendant had befriended these three female students and the students had confided in the defendant about their problems at home and also babysat for the defendant. Id. Several years after the girls had graduated from middle school, each alleged that the defendant had kissed and touched them at school and raped each of them in his home. Id. At trial, the jury convicted the defendant of rape and aggravated indecent liberties with one of the girls. Id.
After the jury’s decision, the defendant argued that his convictions must be reversed because the district court lacked the power to prosecute him. Id. Further, the defendant claimed that, when the State did not prepare and deliver an arrest warrant to the sheriff, they failed to initiate prosecution for the crimes of which the defendant was convicted within the necessary legal time frame. Id. at 247-48. With this in mind, the defendant relied on Kansas law which read, “A prosecution is initiated when a complaint is filed and a warrant is delivered to the sheriff or other officer for execution.” Id. at 248. Moreover, the defendant cited a Kansas case which held that if the delay in executing a warrant was unreasonable, the delay should be included in determining whether a prosecution was initiated within the necessary legal time frame. Id. In responding to the defendant’s reliance on the Kansas case, the court found that there was never a warrant issued for the defendant’s arrest because he was arrested by an officer who had probable cause to believe that the defendant had committed a crime. Id.
The court noted that in order to determine whether the State properly initiated its prosecution required a review of criminal procedure statutes. Id. After examining a Kansas statute, the court found that an issuance of a warrant or summons was not required for initiating a prosecution. Id. at 249. Additionally, the court stated that a law enforcement officer could arrest a person when the officer had probable cause to believe that the person had committed or was committing a felony. Id. In the defendant’s case, the defendant was arrested by a peace officer without a warrant because the officer had information that the defendant had committed the felony. Id.
The court determined that the purpose for issuing a warrant or summons was to provide the defendant with actual notice of the charge or charges against him or her and to insure that the defendant appeared before the court for further proceedings. Id. According to the court, this purpose was accomplished when the defendant voluntarily appeared before the court without a warrant or summons being issued in the case. Id. In sum, the defendant failed to show that the district court lacked the power to prosecute him and that the State failed to initiate prosecution for the crimes of which he was convicted without an arrest warrant. Id.