Sometimes even conduct that seems innocent can get someone charged with a crime. For example, a flashlight is not an object that a person would generally think would get someone arrested. In a recent case, however, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals showed that even misusing a flashlight can lead to criminal prosecution.
The victim in this case, like many of us, had a job that required her to leave very early in the morning. However, one day she was affected by something very annoying–a light shining directly into her car window and blinding her. As far as the victim could tell, this light was coming from the home of one of her neighbors.
Concerned, the woman went to the police. The police advised her to change her schedule, leaving for work even earlier, and see if that fixed the problem. However, even after changing her schedule, the light continued to shine into her car and blind her. As a result, the police decided to set up surveillance in front of her house.
The police waited and saw that a light was coming from a neighbor’s house and shining into the car windows. They approached the neighbors’ house to investigate and found a woman holding a flashlight. They then arrested her for reckless endangerment. The next day, the husband of the arrested woman drove his car behind the victim on her way to work, shined his high beams in her car, and pulled along next to her on a two-lane road. As a result, he was also arrested for reckless endangerment.
At trial, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the charges, claiming that the way the charges were filed did not give them any notice of what they were supposed to defend against. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendants were convicted. They appealed to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and argued that the trial court should have granted their motion to dismiss. In counter, the State argued that the record was inadequate to support an appeal because the court reporter used by the trial court was not an official court reporter.
The Court of Appeals first looked at the defendant’s claim that the charges should have been dismissed. After looking at the record, the court found that there was more than enough evidence to show that the defendants knew exactly what they did wrong. From that point of view, the case was open and shut.
On the other side of the coin, the appeals court looked at the State’s claim that the record was not adequate. Looking at the rules for appeals, the court noted that the only rule is that there be an adequate record. Although the Alabama Supreme Court had said that a record from an unofficial court reporter was not adequate in a later trial, there was no such rule for appeals. Even more, the State never objected to having an unofficial court reporter at trial. As a result, the Court upheld the conviction.
Looking at this case, it has two important takeaways. First, if your spouse or significant other is arrested for a crime, it is probably a good idea to seek advice from an attorney rather than commit a crime yourself. Second, it is important to note that unofficial court reporters are presumptively allowed on appeals. It will be interesting to see what courts consider an “adequate” record in the future.
If you or someone close to you are in involved in a criminal case, do not wait to seek legal help. Having an experienced criminal lawyer on your side can make all the difference. Contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 335-2640 for an experienced criminal lawyer you can trust.