CAN THE STATE FILE CHARGES AGAIN IF THEY LOSE AT A PRELIMINARY HEARING?
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. Turner, 333 P.3d 155 (Kan. 2014).
This case answers the following question:
Can the State file charges again if they lose at a preliminary hearing?
The issue in this case is whether the State can file charges again if they lose at a preliminary hearing. The examining magistrate’s function at a preliminary examination is to determine probable cause; when examining magistrate errs in this function by failing to bind defendant over to district court for trial on a charge warranted by the evidence, State’s only remedy is to dismiss and file another case.
In this case, a petition was filed to summon a grand jury in the District Court of Wyandotte County to investigate claims relating to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and Unified Government. The petition alleged that BPU executives and directors and city and county officials had violated the law and misappropriated public funds in different ways. Turner was not specifically included in the petition nor was the consulting and legal work he performed for BPU. During the grand jury proceedings, an agent called for the indictment of Turner several times. The grand jury subpoenaed Turner to appear and testify at a hearing. Afterwards, the grand jury returned an indictment with charges against Turner.
The grand jury charged Turner with 2 counts of theft and 55 counts of presenting a false claim from the submission of the non-itemized invoices. Turner filed a motion to dismiss the indictments finding that he was prejudiced by the references to Turner’s alleged connection to the 20-year-old murder. Turner also complained about the grand jury’s requirement that he appear and invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege after each question in a series of hundred-plus questions. The district court granted Turner’s motion to dismiss the indictment, finding that Turner had been prejudiced by grand jury abuses and constitutional violations. The Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal, finding that Turner did not have the full right to the constitutional rights, and that the violations that occurred during proceedings was not prejudicial.
The examining magistrate’s function at a preliminary examination is to determine probable cause; when examining magistrate errs in this function by failing to bind defendant over to district court for trial on a charge warranted by the evidence, State’s only remedy is to dismiss and file another case. A grand jury does not determine if a defendant is guilty or innocent, but if a grand jury indicts the defendant, it is a serious matter. In this case, the evidence supporting the indictment did not outweigh the egregious errors that occurred during the grand jury proceedings. Besides the fact that Turner’s constitutional rights were violated by an unfair process, the State presented very little evidence that would support an indictment against Turner. The only supporting evidence presented at the grand jury proceedings was Turner’s non-itemized bills, testimony from individuals who did not know the nature of the work done by Turner on those bills, and witnesses who refused to breach attorney/client privilege and answer questions about the nature of the work done. This was not evidence of any wrongdoing.
The Supreme Court of Kansas held that the grand jury’s decision during the indictment was prejudiced by the substantial abuses of process and constitutional violations. The court reversed the Court of Appeals decision and affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss the indictment.