Not Double Jeopardy?
February 19, 2010 7:04 PM   Subscribe

I was pulled over for speeding in the Adirondacks. I went to court. The officer didn't show up. The judge told me that I could plead guilty to a (no-points) charge and pay $100, or the prosecutor would drop the charges and then refile them, forcing me to drive 2 1/2 hours to court a second time. So of course I agreed to plead guilty and pay a hundred bucks. Is this legal? Or is it double jeopardy? Is there anything I could have done? YANML.

In LA, when the officer didn't show up, the judge dismissed the charges and that was the end of it. This feels like small town "justice" where the judge is looking out for the town's bottom line.
posted by musofire to Law & Government (5 answers total)
As a general rule, jeopardy attaches in a bench trial when the first witness is sworn in. If the charges were dismissed without prejudice before a witness was sworn, then the prosecutor would indeed probably be free to refile the charges.

Them's the breaks, I'm afraid.
posted by jedicus at 7:07 PM on February 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Most places wouldn't bother, but I'm guessing the small-town DA doesn't have a problem with a clogged court schedule.
posted by sanka at 7:26 PM on February 19, 2010

This feels like small town "justice" where the judge is looking out for the town's bottom line.


Justice Courts in NYS are a joke - you do not even have to be a lawyer to be a Judge. Read all about it.
posted by mlis at 8:11 PM on February 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Other comments so far seem to be about right. In Oregon, the only charges that can be refiled after being dismissed are A misdemeanors and all felonies. Lesser misdemeanors (and violations, I believe) cannot be refiled if they were dismissed. So that's one way to protect against that sort of thing.

I suppose the other thing you could have done is try to insist that the trial go that day. Point out that if you had not been present, you would have been convicted in absentia (I think. State law varies). So why should the officer have the benefit of the judge allowing dismissal?
posted by Happydaz at 10:51 PM on February 19, 2010

I agree with HappyDaz, having done exactly that with a case on the Eastern shore in Maryland. The cop had to leave to deal with some heavy traffic incident nearby. The prosecutor requested a postponement and I stood up and raised my objection to the request. The judge let me get away with the interruption, thankfully. I stated my job is plenty important too but if I said I had to leave court for it the judge would rightfully issue a bench warrant for failure to appear. Case dismissed. I didn't hang around to see if any of the other defendants were smart enough to make the same claim. Just because you're the defendant does give the prosecutor any special rights over yours.

It would like serious malfeasance on the part of the prosecutor to play that sort of game. Jerking the defendant around like that has got to be illegal in some way or another. The speedy trial argument comes to mind, but IANAL. Hell, it borders on extortion given the financial exchange involved.

I'd appeal and also make a formal complaint to the Bar Association against both the prosecutor and the judge. This might cost you time and money but justice deserves the effort.
posted by wkearney99 at 2:31 PM on February 20, 2010

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