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. Hartman, 998 P.2d 128 (Kan. Ct. App. 2000).
This case addresses the following issue:
Can my case get dismissed if the cops keep me in jail too long before first appearance?
This case explored the issue of whether a defendant’s case could get dismissed if the police kept the defendant in jail too long before his or first appearance. In exploring this issue, the court concluded that they would only dismiss a defendant’s charges for keeping him or her in jail for too long before a first appearance if there were extremely compelling reasons. Id. at 130.
The defendant entered a plea of guilty to two charges of driving under the influence (DUI) in violation of a Kansas law. Id. at 129. In both instances, the defendant was arrested on charges of DUI in Sedgwick County and released on bond. Id. However, the defendant failed to appear at his court hearing because he was in jail in Cowley County on a probation charge. Id. Therefore, the defendant’s initial arrest in Sedgwick County was on January 4, 1997 and he was not brought before a judge on those charges until July 29, 1997 (206 days later). Id. at 130. So, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges due to the unnecessary delay from his initial arrest to the time when he appeared in front of a judge. Id. at 129. The trial court denied his motion because they found that Sedgwick County’s duty to bring the defendant before a judge was temporarily suspended while the defendant was in jail in Cowley County. Id. Additionally, the trial court held that the defendant had shown no prejudice sufficient to justify a dismissal of his charges. Id.
In response to the defendant’s argument that his charges should be dismissed due to the 206 days that lapsed between his arrest and his appearance in front of a judge, the court agreed with the trial court that the charges should not be dismissed. Id. at 130. According to the court, there must be an extremely compelling reason to dismiss criminal charges for a perceived violation of the Kansas statute which imposed a duty on a county to bring a defendant before a judge without unnecessary delay. Id. In the defendant’s case, the court concluded that there were no extremely compelling reasons to dismiss the charges. Id.
The court noted that the main problem with the defendant’s argument was that the 206-day delay was caused almost entirely by his own actions. Id. Moreover, the defendant was in jail in Cowley County for most, if not all, of the 206-day delay he complained about. Id. Furthermore, the court stated that the defendant made it impossible for the Sedgwick County authorities to bring him before a Sedgwick County judge until he had been released. Id. Additionally, the court found that a defendant cannot make something impossible by his or her own actions and then complain that the State did not take action which the defendant alone had made impossible. Id. Also, the court determined that the defendant could have forced the State to bring him before a Sedgwick County judge but he failed to do so. Id. Therefore, the court concluded that as long as the defendant was in jail at Cowley County, the obligation of Sedgwick County to bring him before a judge without unnecessary delay was temporarily suspended. Id.