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, 230 Kan. 783 (1982).
This case answers the following questions:
- May a criminal complaint be dismissed against the defendant if the defendant suffered an unnecessary delay before seeing the magistrate?
- What are the possible remedies for suffering an unnecessary delay?
The issue presented in this case is to whether the defendant, who was incarcerated for eleven days from date of arrest to their first appearance before a magistrate, resulted in such prejudice to their statutory and constitutional rights that it warranted the dismissal with prejudice of the charges against them. The trial court applied the K.S.A. 22-2901 standard that an arrestee be taken before the magistrate “without unnecessary delay”. Id. at 785. However, a court must also find that the unnecessary delay in some way prejudiced the right of the accused to a fair trial. Id. at 786. The point of issue in this case is due in part to the fact that the statute fails to provide sanctions if a court finds that an unnecessary delay occurred. Id. at 785. Without a determinative remedy for a violation, courts typically resort to: (1) liability for tort damages for wrongful detention; (2) the suppression of a confession or physical evidence which is found to be the product or fruit of the wrongful detention; or (3) habeas corpus to obtain immediate release from custody. Id. at 787. In order to determine what remedy to impose the court should the following factors: (1) the length of the delay; (2) reason for the delay; (3) the defendant’s assertion of his rights; (4) prejudice resulting to the defendant; and (5) the severity of the crime. Id. at 788. The Court stated that the remedy of dismissal of a criminal complaint with prejudice is a sanction that should only be imposed under the most extremely compelling circumstances. Id. Further, the Court warned that dismissing the complaint should only be done when no other remedy would protect against abuse and such power should be exercised with great caution and emphasized that the role of K.S.A. 22-2901 is not to penalize the police or the public but to protect the rights of the accused. Id.
In the current case, the defendant stated that the eleven day delay in bringing him before the magistrate surmounted to intimidation and cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 784. The Court looked at the facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest and the time period in which the defendant was detained and concluded that the determination to dismiss the criminal complaint with prejudice by the trial court was erroneous. Id. at 788. The court furthered that resulting to a dismissal of the criminal complaint by the trail court was improper because there were other possible remedies that would protect against abuse that did not result to the complete dismissal of the complaint. Id.