WHAT HAPPENS IF A WARRANT HAS A DEFECT?
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. Marshall and Brown-Sidorowicz, P.A., 577 P.2d 803 (1978).
This case addresses the following issue:
What happens if a warrant has a defect?
This case explored the issue of what happens if a warrant has a defect. While this case explored the details of an indictment and summons, the same logic holds true for the details of a warrant. Id. at 812. In exploring this issue, the court concluded that while the indictment and summons did have a defect due to the missing name of the State of Kansas, this did not constitute a situation where the court did not have the legal authority to make a decision. Id.
The defendant was an architect and the prosecution against him arose out of an award by the State of Kansas of an architectural contract to the defendant for the expansion of the KU Medical Center. Id. at 808. The defendant was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery after evidence came out that the defendant conspired to bribe the governor with a political payoff in order to get the architectural contract worth $50 million. Id. at 809. Evidence showed that the defendant made a $30,000 political contribution in exchange for the State Architect to recommend to the governor that the defendant should be granted the contract. Id. at 810. After the contribution, the defendant was awarded the contract. Id. At trial, the jury found the defendant guilty. Id. at 809.
The defendant argued that the missing name from the captions of the indictment (formal charge of the crime) and summons were a jurisdictional defect (meaning the court did not have the power to make the legal decision). Id. at 811. In response, the court noted that the failure to include the name of the State of Kansas in the captions was not a fatal defect. Id. Furthermore, the court held that it was the body of the indictment rather than its caption that was important. Id. Additionally, the court found that if the body specifically stated the essential elements of the crime and was otherwise free from defect, defect in the caption would not cause it to be invalid. Id. Moreover, the court stated that contradictions, mistakes, and missing names in the caption had not been held to be fatal to prosecution. Id.
The court went on to conclude that if they were to hold that the missing name from the caption was a defect, it would be a defect of a formal or technical nature and not jurisdictional. Id. at 812. With this in mind, objections to an indictment based on formal and unsubstantial defects would be deemed to be abandoned if not timely raised. Id. In order to timely raise objections, the defendant must object in the preliminary stages of the proceeding. Id. In the defendant’s case, the defendant raised no objection to the form of the indictment or summons until after the trial. Id.
In sum, in order for a legal document presented to a defendant (such as a warrant) to be considered invalid due to a defect, it must be a situation where an essential element of the document was invalid. Id. at 811.