Saturday, November 21, 2015

Trooper's repeated failure to appear justified dismissal with prejudice

In State v. Stufflebean, No. 112,873 (Kan. App. Oct. 30, 2015)(unpublished), the COA affirmed a magistrate judge's dismissal of a traffic citation with prejudice after a Highway Patrol Trooper failed to appear for the bench trial. Recognizing that dismissal with prejudice is an extreme remedy, the COA still upheld the magistrate judge's action:
Here, the record on appeal reflects that the magistrate judge dismissed the charge against Stufflebean with prejudice because the trooper who issued the traffic citation failed to attend the bench trial. While there is no transcript of the original bench trial in the record, the district judge affirmed the magistrate judge's dismissal in part because Stufflebean had driven over an hour each way to appear in the Jefferson County District Court two previous times—once for the first appearance and once for the bench trial at which Moomau was absent.

It was not unreasonable for the magistrate judge to find that requiring Stufflebean to appear in court yet again was prejudicial to him, especially after he needlessly traveled to Jefferson County at least one other time due to the trooper's failure to attend the bench trial. It is also reasonable not to require a defendant to travel multiple times in order to resolve a traffic infraction when the issuing officer failed to attend the bench trial with no excuse. Also significantly, the magistrate judge's decision did not punish the public and it did not create windfall for Stufflebean. The charge against Stufflebean was not for a violent or especially dangerous offense, meaning he was not an appreciable danger to the public. Stufflebean at most faced a fine if found guilty, meaning he did not gain a substantial windfall through the dismissal when compared to other hypothetical defendants facing prison sentences or large restitution obligations.
[Update: the state did not file a PR and the mandate issued on Decvember 14, 2015.]

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