WHAT HAPPENS IF THE COMPLAINT DOESN’T STATE THAT A CRIME WAS COMMITTED?
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. Sims, 862 P.2d 359 (Kan. 1993).
This case answers the question:
Can a new trial be granted for arrest of judgment?
This case discusses whether the court should grant a motion to arrest the judgment. There are two grounds for a motion to arrest judgment: (1) if the complaint, information, or indictment does not charge a crime or (2) if the trial court was without jurisdiction of the crime charged.
Sims was accused of having oral and vaginal sex with his granddaughter who was living with him at the time. The granddaughter was sleeping one night when she was awakened by her grandfather climbing on top of her. She resisted, but was threatened by Sims who produced a shotgun and said he would shoot her if she did not do what he said.
After being convicted of rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, and aggravated incest, the defendant filed a motion to arrest judgment. There are two grounds for a motion to arrest judgment: (1) if the complaint, information, or indictment does not charge a crime or (2) if the trial court was without jurisdiction of the crime charged.
A motion for arrest of judgment does not test the sufficiency of the evidence to convict a defendant of the crime, just the charging documents.The sufficiency of the charging document is measured by whether (1) it contains the elements of the offense intended to be charged, (2) it sufficiently apprises the defendant of what he or she must be prepared to meet, and (3) it is specific enough to make a subsequent plea of double jeopardy possible. The court noted that in this case the charging documents were complete and no essential elements of the offenses charged were omitted.
In the state of Kansas, a defendant is allowed ten days after a verdict or finding of guilty to file a motion for arrest of judgment. In this case, the guilty verdict was granted on December 17, 1991, but Sims did not file his motion to arrest judgment until June 1992, more than 180 days after the guilty verdict was rendered. Based on this information, the court looked at the question of whether the district court had jurisdiction to arrest judgment in this case.
Sims argued that the court must look to State v. Williams to determine precedent for ruling on a motion to arrest judgment. The Supreme Court of Kansas reasoned that Williams was distinguished from the case at hand because it dealt with sufficiency of the evidence at the preliminary examination and not with jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is the power of a court to hear and decide a matter. Jurisdiction is not limited to the power to decide a matter rightly but includes the power to decide the matter wrongly. Sims argues that the judge has the power to grant an arrest of judgment on its own motion if it finds that there are grounds which would require that a motion for arrest of judgment be granted. The Supreme Court of Kansas reasoned that the court may only use this power if the defendant has filed a motion for arrest of judgment within the specified ten days.
The Supreme Court of Kansas ruled that the court did not have jurisdiction to arrest Sims’ convictions of rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. Therefore the court’s arrest of judgment is reversed and remanded with directions to reinstate the convictions.