CAN IT HELP YOUR CASE IF THERE WAS UNNECESSARY DELAY IN BRINGING YOU BEFORE THE JUDGE?
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. Crouch, 641 P.2d 394 (Kan. 1982).
This case addresses the following issue:
Can it help your case it there was unnecessary delay in bringing you before the judge?
This case explored the issue of whether it could help a defendant’s case if there was unnecessary delay in bringing him or her before the judge. In exploring this issue, the court concluded that it could potentially help the defendant’s case if the unnecessary delay resulted in prejudice to the defendant’s right to trial. If the defendant was able to prove this prejudice, the court could dismiss the charges against the defendant. Id. at 398.
On July 2, 1981, an automobile was stolen from a parking lot. Id. at 395. The automobile’s description was broadcast to police officers in the area and on the next day the car was discovered in the possession of the defendants. Id. The police officers made a probable cause arrest and the defendants were taken to jail. Id. On July 6, 1981, the court set bond for the defendants but the defendants were never notified. Id. On July 10, 1981, a formal complaint was filed charging each of the defendants with felony theft. Id. Eventually, the defendants were brought before the district court for first appearance on July 14, 1981 (eleven days after they were arrested). Id.
The attorneys for each of the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice based on the failure of the State to bring the defendants before a judge until eleven days after they were arrested. Id. The trial judge allowed the motions and dismissed the complaints (charges against them) with prejudice. Id. at 395-96. In each instance, the trial court found that the defendant had been prejudiced by the delay in bringing him before a judge. Id. at 396. After the trial judge dismissed the complaints, the State filed an appeal. Id.
The sole issue in this case was whether keeping the defendants in jail for eleven days before allowing them to make their first appearance in front of a judge resulted in such prejudice to their rights that warranted the dismissal with prejudice of the charges against them. Id. This issue required the court to interpret a Kansas statute which in short read, “When an arrest is made in the county where the crime charged is alleged to have been committed, the person arrested shall be taken without unnecessary delay before a magistrate (judge) of the court from which the warrant was issued.” Id.
The court noted that there had been no cases which authorized dismissal of a complaint for unnecessary delay in taking a defendant before a judge. Id. at 398. However, even though there had not been any cases dismissing a complaint for unnecessary delay, the court concluded that dismissal of a criminal complaint should be imposed under extremely compelling circumstances. Id. With this in mind, such power should be exercised with great caution and only in cases where no other cure would protect against abuse. Id. The court went on to further state that if a trial court found that a violation of the statute had resulted in prejudice to the defendant’s right to a fair trial, then the trial court should take appropriate action and may suppress a confession or physical evidence. Id.
In determining the appropriate cure for an unnecessary delay which resulted in prejudice, the court identified four factors a trial court should consider: (1) the length of the delay, (2) the reason for the delay, (3) the defendant’s assertion of his rights, and (4) prejudice resulting to the defendant. Id. In addition, the court stated that the severity of the crime charged should be considered. Id.
In the defendants’ case, the two were arrested and taken promptly by the police officers to jail. Id. The county attorney was notified of their presence in the jail and the responsibility fell on the county attorney to see that the Kansas statute was complied with by taking the defendants in front of a judge. Id. Therefore, from all of the facts and circumstances, the court held that this was not an appropriate case for a dismissal of the complaint with prejudice. Id.