WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE COMPLAINT IN A CRIMINAL CASE?
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.
Carmichael v. State, 872 P.2d 240 (Kan. 1994).
This case addresses the following issue:
What is the purpose of the complaint?
This case explored the purpose of a complaint and how the complaint impacts the jurisdiction of the court (meaning the court could legally hear the case in court.) Id. at 241. The court explained that the complaint or information was the jurisdictional instrument on which the defendant stands trial. Id. Further, where the complaint alleged all the essential elements of the offense charged, the court had jurisdiction even if the criminal statute could not be applied to the facts involved. Id.
On September 27, 1985, a jury found the defendant guilty of two counts of rape and one count of aggravated kidnapping. Id. at 242. The victim was the defendant’s daughter. Id. On appeal, the defendant made the argument that he was wrongly charged with and convicted of rape pursuant to State v. Williams, 829 P.2d 892 (1992). Id. Williams stated a jurisdictional rule which required persons within a special class (biological, step, or adoptive relative of a child victim) to be charged with aggravated incest rather than rape. Id. Since the defendant was within the special class to be charged, the Court of Appeals concluded that the district court lacked jurisdiction to convict the defendant of rape of his daughter and reversed the defendant’s rape convictions. Id. The Court of Appeals held that the district court did not have jurisdiction because a conviction upon charges which did not apply to the person convicted denied the individual due process. Id.
The court disagreed with the Court of Appeals and found that the district court did have jurisdiction because the State’s complaint did allege each essential element of the crime charged. Id. According to the court, “As long as the complaint alleges that a crime has been committed, the court has subject matter jurisdiction even if the criminal statute cannot be applied to the facts involved.” Id. at 243. Therefore, the court found that the sole challenge of the case was whether the sentence conformed to the aggravated incest statutory provisions addressed in Williams. Id. at 245. In State v. Scherer, 869 P.2d 729 (1994), the court held that if the sentence imposed does not conform to the statutory provision it is considered an illegal sentence and would have to be returned to the district court for correction. Id.
In order to address the statutory provision challenge, the court examined the rationale found in State v. Moore, 748 P.2d 833 (1987), which stated that rape and incest have different elements and therefore are distinct offenses. Id. at 246. Some state courts rejected this rationale and determined that the two offenses merged where there was a single act of sexual intercourse. Id.
The court found that aggravated incest is not included in nor merges with the offense of rape. Id. Further, the court determined that aggravated incest was a specific offense and rape was a general offense. Id. at 246-47. Therefore, the defendant should have only been charged with aggravated incest. Id. at 247. Since the defendant was charged and convicted of the rape of his daughter, the court found the proper remedy to be to remove the sentence imposed for rape and resentence the defendant for aggravated incest in district court. Id.