9/8/2015Federal Appeals Court Overturns Speeding Ticket Perjury Case
Federal appeals court rules that man who evaded a speeding ticket once cannot be tried for perjury.
California cops cannot have two bites at the apple in bringing a speeding motorist to trial, the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday. A three-judge federal panel found California's second-highest court misconstrued the US Constitution when it declared James Kendell Wilkinson guilty of perjury for claiming he was not the man driving 101 MPH on Interstate 405 on January 20, 2007.
The man that California Highway Patrol officer Mark Magrann pulled over on that day produced a UK driver's license bearing the name Kendall Wilkinson. Although he was issued a citation, the man never showed up for his traffic court hearing. An arrest warrant was issued, and James Kendell Wilkinson was picked up for the offense. During Wilkinson's trial, Officer Magrann testified that when Wilkinson produced a valid Nevada driver's license it "made me doubt as to whether he was actually driving the vehicle" that he had pulled over on January 20.
As a result, the traffic judge found Wilkinson not guilty, but Officer Magrann, who was paid $192,920 in 2013, would not let it rest. After the court session, he decided to devote state resources to a six-month investigation that culminated in having ten police officers burst into Wilkinson's home in Dana Point, with guns drawn, to execute a search warrant. Officer Magrann found the original ticket issued to "Kendall Wilkinson" among Wilkinson's papers, so prosecutors charged Wilkinson with perjury. A jury found him guilty of this offense, and he was sentenced to 45 days in jail. The California Court of Appeal upheld the penalty.
That second trial for perjury was barred by the Fifth Amendment's protection against having a person tried twice for the same offense, the federal panel ruled.
"As Wilkinson contends, and as the [federal] district court agreed, the traffic court judge acquitted Wilkinson because he was not the driver of the car," Judge William A. Fletcher wrote for the Ninth Circuit. "In acquitting Wilkinson in the first case, the traffic court judge thus necessarily decided that Wilkinson was not the driver, and that he had been telling the truth in so stating."
State prosecutors argued that perjury is a different charge than speeding, so the second trial should be allowed. The federal judges emphatically disagreed.
"Permitting a perjury exception to the protection the Double Jeopardy Clause affords a defendant would undermine the overriding concern of the clause, which is to prevent the government with its vastly superior resources from wearing down the defendant, so that even though innocent he may be found guilty," Judge Fletcher wrote. "The handful of state court decisions that mistakenly attempt to carve out a special exception to the Constitution's protection against double jeopardy for perjury prosecutions do not represent fairminded disagreement on an open question of constitutional law. Rather, they represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the Double Jeopardy Clause and the Supreme Court decisions that explain its purpose and operation."
A copy of the report is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.