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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. Palma, 128 P.3d 999 (Kan. Ct. App. 2006).

This case addresses the following issue:

Does the State have to get an arrest warrant on all cases?

This case explored the question of whether the State has to get an arrest warrant on all cases. In exploring this question, the court noted the State does not have to get an arrest warrant on all cases because the issuance of a warrant or summons for the arrest of a defendant who had already been arrested on probable cause and remained in custody after a probable cause determination by the court was not required by the Kansas law. Id. at 1004.

On September 5, 2004, the defendant was stopped for traffic violations and consented to a search where the officers discovered 21 pounds of marijuana in hidden compartments in the car. Id. at 1000. Subsequently, the defendant was arrested and transported to the county jail. Id. Later, the court determined that there was probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the offense of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and there was probable cause for the defendant’s arrest. Id. Eventually, the State filed a complaint against the defendant alleging drug crimes of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of controlled substances without a tax stamp, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Id. at 1000-01. The hearing where the defendant was formally charged took place a month later and the defendant plead guilty. Id. at 1001. At that time, the defendant had not posted bond and was still in custody. Id. The trial court set the sentencing hearing for a month later and released the defendant because no warrant had been issued or served by the State. Id. Consequently, the State appealed the trial court’s release of the defendant due to the lack of a warrant. Id.

In the State’s appeal, the State argued that the issuance of a post-arrest warrant was not required and it was clear error for the trial court to release the defendant on the sole belief that a warrant was required. Id. The State went on to maintain that applying the warrant or summons requirement produced an unreasonable and absurd result. Id. at 1003. Further, the State laid out three arguments: (1) if a post-arrest warrant was required, the possible scenario arose where a defendant could be arrested after already being bailed out on the same charge, (2) a post-arrest warrant could result in a return of the warrant that pre-dates the judge’s issuance of the warrant, and (3) if a defendant was out on bail, there was no purpose for the warrant since the defendant had already ensured that he would appear at his next hearing. Id.

The court first looked to Kansas law which stated that the process of arrest without a warrant and a subsequent judicial finding of probable cause within 48 hours (which occurred in the present case) was a valid substitute for obtaining an arrest warrant. Id. at 1002. Additionally, the court noted that the purpose for issuing a warrant or summons was to provide the accused with actual notice of the charge or charges against him or her and to insure that the accused appeared before the court for further proceedings. Id. at 1003.

The court applied the principles of a Kansas case which held that the issuance of a warrant or summons for the arrest of a defendant already in custody was not required. Id. In applying these principles, the court concluded that the trial court erred in determining that the defendant should have been released from custody because a warrant had not been issued or executed. Id. Furthermore, the court held that the lack of necessity of requiring the State to serve the defendant with a warrant was demonstrated by the fact that he was already in custody for the crime at issue at the time the arrest warrant would have been issued. Id.

In deciding this case, the court determined that the issuance of a warrant or summons for the arrest of a defendant who had already been arrested on probable cause and remained in custody after a probable cause determination by the court was not required by Kansas law. Id. at 1004.

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