After Trial Can The Judge Find A Person Guilty Of A Crime That They Weren’t Charged With?
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. Clayter, No. 109,590 2014 Kan. App. Unpub. LEXIS 776 (Sept. 26, 2014).
This case addresses the following issues:
What occurs if the trial court erroneously finds the defendant guilty of a higher related crime than the actual crime charged by the State?
What is the resulting difference between the conviction of felony and misdemeanor battery of a law enforcement officer in regards to sentencing?
The pertinent issue in this case included whether or not the court erred when the charging document cited to felony battery of a law enforcement officer statute while the State actually charged the appellant with misdemeanor battery of a law enforcement officer. Id. at *34. This resulted in the district court instructing the jury on the felony charge rather than the misdemeanor charge. Id. The appellant contends that because he was convicted of an uncharged crime that was not a lesser included offense of the crime charged the conviction must be reversed for lack of jurisdiction. Id. at *34-*35. “[I]f a crime is not specifically stated in the information or is not a lesser included offense of the crime charged, the district court lacks jurisdiction to convict a defendant of the crime, regardless of the evidence presented.” Id. at *35. In addition, if a defendant is convicted of a charge not made in the information and not properly before the district court, then there has been a violation of the defendant’s due process rights. Id.
In this case, the charging document stated the crime charged was felony battery of a law enforcement officer, when the State actually charged the appellant with misdemeanor battery of a law enforcement officer. Id. at *34. Felony battery against a law enforcement officer is defined under K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5413(c)(2)(B) as “knowingly or recklessly causing bodily harm” against a uniformed or properly identified law enforcement officer “while such officer is engaged in the performance of such officer’s duty.” Id. at *35-*36. This crime results in a severity level 7 person felony. Id. at *36. Simple battery against a law enforcement officer is defined under K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5413(c)(1)(B) as “knowingly causing physical contact with another person when done in a rude, insulting or angry manner” when that other person is a uniformed or properly identified law enforcement officer carrying out his or her duty. Id. at *36. This crime results in a class A person misdemeanor. Id. The appellate court then specifically noted that the complaint used the terminology of “in a rude, insulting or angry manner.” Id. The appellate court continued that “[a]s the felony-level battery offense was an uncharged crime and not a lesser included offense of the crime charged (as it is in fact a more severe crime than the crime charged), the district court lacked jurisdiction over it.” Id. at *36-*37. Thus, the appellate court voided and reversed the conviction. Id. at *37.