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. Abu-Isba, 685 P.2d 856 (Kan. 1984).
This case addresses the following issue:
What evidence must the State have to get a warrant?
The court explored the question of what evidence the State must have to issue a warrant. In addressing this question, the court explained that in determining whether to issue a warrant for arrest or search, the judge should consider all of the circumstances presented and make a practical, common sense decision whether there was a fair probability that a crime had been committed and that the defendant committed the crime, or that contraband or evidence of crime would be found in a particular place. Id. at 860.
The defendant, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, was charged with communicating a terroristic threat after he was dismissed from the graduate program and denied readmission. Id. at 860. On May 18, 1962, the defendant went to see a faculty member concerning his readmission application. Id. When the faculty member informed the defendant that his readmission application had been denied, the defendant got upset and yelled, “I will destroy you before you leave the university.” Id. From May 18 until May 27, the defendant continued to visit the faculty member’s office one to three times per day and told the faculty member that he would keep up his visits until he did what the defendant wanted. Id. The faculty member testified that he believed the defendant was threatening his life and that the threat had changed his life. Id. at 860. After the case was prosecuted in the district court, the defendant was found guilty of communicating a terroristic threat to the faculty member. Id.
The defendant argued that the State’s complaint and the supporting affidavit did not contain sufficient factual information to support an independent determination that probable cause to arrest existed. Id. In order to address the defendant’s argument, the court first noted that before a warrant for arrest or search may be issued, there must be a finding of probable cause by a neutral and detached judge. Id. Additionally, the court stated that the complaint should supply the judge with sufficient factual information to support an independent judgment that probable cause to arrest existed; mere conclusions were not sufficient to support such a finding. Id.
The court defined probable cause as the reasonable ground for belief that a specific crime had been committed and that the defendant had committed or was committing it. Id. Moreover, probable cause existed if the facts and circumstances within the arresting officer’s knowledge and of which he had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient in themselves to warrant a person of reasonable caution to believe that an offense had been or was being committed. Id.
In determining whether to issue a warrant for arrest or search, the court stated that the judge should consider all of the circumstances presented and make a practical, common sense decision whether there was a fair probability that a crime had been committed and that the defendant committed the crime, or that contraband or evidence of crime would be found in a particular place. Id. In the defendant’s case, the arrest warrant was issued by the judge based on the State’s complaint and supporting affidavits. Id. at 861. The court determined that the complaint defined the offense of communicating a terroristic threat and that the affidavits established probable cause. Id. In sum, probable cause to arrest the defendant existed. Id.