Criminal Law: Sometimes people criticize so-called “technicalities” in defense of criminal charges, because they feel like it somehow rewards a guilty person. But more often than not, those “technicalities” are the heart of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the State Constitutions, and the Statutes of the particular jurisdiction. These are not “technicalities,” but important Rights Americans have that keep the police, prosecutors, and the Criminal Justice system honest to everyone who comes before it, whether guilty or not. Paying attention to those rights, and the details of all “technicalities” can sometimes be overlooked, but can sometimes be rewarding to someone defending themselves, with or without an attorney.
Such a case was recently decided in the First District Court of Appeals for Hamilton County, Ohio. In Ohio, a criminal charge or complaint has to be signed under oath by the charging party — usually a police officer, usually before a notary or a court clerk. If it isn’t, the Court doesn’t have jurisdiction to prosecute the charges.
On February 3, 2012, an undercover officer getting ready to run a prostitution “sting” operation (where officers pose as prostitutes to arrest prospective customers), filled out the date of the offense and signed the criminal complaint form, but left the details to be filled in by other officers later. After an arrest was made, the Complaint was filled in and filed with the Court. When this was discovered, the defendant requested the charge be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction — because the facts of the accusation, being filled in after the complaint was signed, could not have been signed under oath as required — the facts hadn’t even happened yet.
The trial court denied the motion for “technical” reasons (a Rule that requires some motions to be made before trial). But the steadfast defendant and his attorney appealed that decision, after he was convicted, and the Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant: there was no jurisdiction, that defense can be made at any time, and dismissed the charges.
It is sometimes assumed that these “details” are in order, but sometimes they are not. This is a case that demonstrates the value of a vigorous inquiry and attention to all details. You never know what might turn up. In this case the details, or the “technicalities” of the Law, prevented a prosecution that the Court did not even have jurisdiction to prosecute, because Police “fudged” the “details.”
The link may change but the case is State v. Allen, and can be found at:
More information about my practice and background can be found at:
I hope readers find this information helpful.
Thomas G. Eagle, Attorney