Young v. City of Hokes Bluff

Decision Date27 March 1992
Docket NumberCR-90-1559
Citation611 So.2d 401
PartiesSue Tidmore YOUNG v. CITY OF HOKES BLUFF.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

Mary Ann Stackhouse, Gadsden, for appellant.

David C. Livingston, Gadsden, for appellee.

TAYLOR, Judge.

The appellant, Sue Tidmore Young, was convicted in municipal court of driving under the influence of alcohol. She appealed her conviction to the Etowah Circuit Court for a trial de novo and was again found guilty. She was fined $250.00 plus court costs and was required to attend D.U.I. school.

The appellant contends that the circuit court never obtained jurisdiction in her case because the City of Hokes Bluff failed to file a new complaint with that court. She relies on Burke v. City of Rainbow City, [Ms. 90-749, September 20, 1991], 1991 WL 197861 (Ala.Cr.App.1991), for the proposition that the city must file an entirely new complaint when an appeal is taken to circuit court from a district court decision.

In Burke, supra, we relied on Cone v. City of Midfield, 561 So.2d 1126 (Ala.Cr.App.1990), for the proposition stated by the appellant. However, after re-examining the holding in Cone, we find that its interpretation in Burke was erroneous. In Cone, we held that an attorney representing the prosecuting authority in municipal or district court was empowered to sign a complaint pursuant to § 12-22-113, Code of Alabama 1975, in lieu of the district attorney. This holding did not require the filing of a new complaint.

An extraordinary amount of legal attention has been focused on what should be a relatively simple procedure, i.e., transferring a case from an inferior court to a superior court after a notice of appeal has been filed by the individual who was convicted of driving under the influence in the lower court. See Woods v. City of Dothan, 594 So.2d 238 (Ala.Cr.App.1991); Burke, supra; Cone, supra.

In appeals from municipal court to circuit court, such as the case presently before us, two statutes apply. The most recent is § 12-14-70, Code of Alabama 1975, entitled "Appeals to circuit courts from judgments of municipal courts and proceedings thereon.' Section 12-14-70 provides, in pertinent part:

"(d) When an appeal has been taken, the municipality shall file the notice and other documents in the court to which the appeal is taken within 15 days, failing which the municipality shall be deemed to have abandoned the prosecution, the defendant shall stand discharged and the bond shall be automatically terminated."

(Emphasis added.) The other applicable statute is § 12-22-113, Code of Alabama 1975, entitled "De novo trial in circuit court; statement of cause of complaint." This statute, which was originally enacted in 1852, provides:

"The trial in circuit court shall be de novo and without any indictment or presentment to the grand jury, but the district attorney shall make a brief statement of the cause of complaint signed by him...."

(Emphasis added.)

While § 12-22-113 requires the prosecuting attorney to make a brief statement of the cause and complaint, this is a notice requirement and not a requirement for a new complaint. Rogers v. State, 12 Ala.App. 196, 67 So. 781 (1915); Miles v. State, 94 Ala. 106, 11 So. 403 (1892). There has been no allegation that the appellant failed to receive notice of the charges against her. In fact, the appellant specifically acknowledges in her brief that:

"[o]n March 12, 1990, the City of Hokes Bluff filed in the Circuit Court a 'transcript' of the Municipal Court proceedings. The transcript contained the uniform traffic ticket and complaint, the notice of appeal and the appeal bond, and was signed by the Municipal Court Judge and attested to by the Circuit Clerk."

(Emphasis added.) If the previous "proceeding was based upon a complaint, then that complaint is the 'notice' referred to in § 12-14-70(d) and must be filed along with the 'other documents.' " Ex parte Hood, 404 So.2d 717 (Ala.1981).

The issue then becomes whether a valid uniform traffic ticket and complaint (U.T.T.C.) is a "cause of complaint" referred to in § 12-22-113. Rule 19(A), of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration dictates, in part, as follows:

"(1) Traffic Complaint and Summons. The complaint and summons used in all nonfelony traffic cases shall be the 'Uniform Traffic Ticket and Complaint.'

"(2) Use of Ticket. The uniform traffic ticket and complaint shall be used in all nonfelony traffic cases in all courts of the state. Any ticket properly issued by a law enforcement officer shall be accepted for filing and disposition in any court having jurisdiction over the alleged offense."

(Emphasis added.) In addition to that portion of Rule 19 quoted above, § 15-7-1, Code of Alabama 1975, defines a complaint as "an allegation made before a proper judge or magistrate that a person has been guilty of a designated public offense." We have held that prosecution for a named offense commences when the U.T.T.C. is initially filed and that the appeal to the circuit court for a trial de novo is but a continuation of that prosecution. Beals v. State, 533 So.2d 717, 722 (Ala.Cr.App.1988); Scott v. State, 45 Ala.App. 149, 227 So.2d 436, cert. denied, 284 Ala. 733, 227 So.2d 438 (1969). Accordingly, we find that a valid U.T.T.C., sworn to before a judge or magistrate, is sufficient to fulfill the "cause of complaint" requirements of § 12-22-113.

Upon review of the aforementioned statutory and case authority, we hold that there is no requirement that the prosecuting authority file a new complaint in the circuit court when an appeal is taken from a conviction in municipal or district court pursuant to a valid U.T.T.C. Therefore, in order to arrive at a result that reconciles § 12-14-70 and § 12-22-113 with each other as well as with existing case law, we find it necessary to specifically overrule our holding in Burke, and in doing so, we affirm the appellant's conviction in this case. The U.T.T.C. filed in her case was valid and satisfied the "cause of complaint" requirement of § 12-22-113.

For the reasons stated above, the appellant's conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol is hereby affirmed.


PATTERSON, P.J., concurs.

BOWEN, J., concurs in result with opinion with MONTIEL, J., joining.

McMILLAN, J., dissents with opinion.

BOWEN, Judge, concurring in result.

The appellant was convicted of DUI in municipal court. She appealed to the circuit court for trial de novo. The City timely filed the notice of appeal, the appeal bond, and the transcript of the municipal court proceeding. That transcript included the charging instrument--the UTTC--on which the municipal court prosecution had been based. In circuit court the City did not "make a brief statement of the cause of complaint," in compliance with Ala.Code 1975, § 12-22-113. The appellant demanded a prosecuting attorney's complaint. She claimed that the complaint was mandated by § 12-22-113, and that without it, the circuit court had no jurisdiction to proceed with the trial de novo.

The City insisted that the circuit court complaint was neither "jurisdictional" nor necessary. The municipal prosecutor argued that the function of a circuit court complaint--to give the appellant notice of the charges she would be called upon to defend--had been fulfilled by the municipal court complaint, that is, the UTTC. Nevertheless, the prosecutor offered to file a circuit court complaint then and there. Although the trial judge agreed with the City's argument and overruled the appellant's objection, the prosecutor filed a complaint in compliance with § 12-22-113 in open court on the day of trial.

I concur in the result to affirm the appellant's conviction because she received what she asked for and what, as the law now stands, she was statutorily entitled to--a prosecuting attorney's complaint in accord with § 12-22-113. See Ex parte Hood, 404 So.2d 717, 720 (Ala.1981), wherein the Court cited Aderhold v. City of Anniston, 99 Ala. 521, 12 So. 472 (1893), as governing "the time for filing the complaint in the circuit court." Aderhold held that a prosecuting attorney's complaint may properly be "filed at any time before the trial". 99 Ala. at 524, 12 So. at 472.

I also concur in overruling Burke v. City of Rainbow City, [Ms. CR 90-749, September 20, 1991], 1991 WL 197861 (Ala.Cr.App.1991), because that case holds that § 12-22-113 is a jurisdictional prerequisite to the conduct of appeals for trial de novo in circuit court. Burke was reversed and rendered for the failure of the prosecutor to comply with § 12-22-113. The error in that case was the denial of the statutory right, timely demanded by the appellant, to be prosecuted on a prosecuting attorney's complaint in conformity with § 12-22-113. That error entitled that appellant to a new trial, not an acquittal. Burke should have been reversed and remanded, not reversed and rendered.

I write separately in this case to explain why a prosecuting attorney's complaint is not the mechanism that confers jurisdiction on the circuit court to proceed with a de novo appeal, and why a prosecuting attorney's complaint should no longer be statutorily required in circuit court when the prosecution in municipal or district court is initiated by a valid UTTC. 1

Misdemeanors are indictable offenses in Alabama. Ala.Code 1975, § 15-8-2. Article I, § 8, of the 1901 Alabama Constitution provides, in pertinent part, that "no person shall, for any indictable offense, be proceeded against criminally, by information ... provided, that in cases of misdemeanor, the legislature may by law dispense with a grand jury and authorize such prosecutions and proceedings before justices of the peace or such other inferior courts as may be by law established." (Emphasis added.)

Article I, § 8, of the Constitution mandates that an indictable offense not be tried without indictment unless express authority has been conferred by the legislature on the...

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