State of Delaware ("the State") has filed an appeal
pursuant to 10 Del. C. § 9902(a)from a
determination by the Court of Common Pleas ("CCP")
that it lacked jurisdiction of this case against Jhareed A.
Ayers ("Ayers" or "appellee"). This is my
decision affirming CCP's decision.
Court reviews only the information in the record which was
available to the trial court when the decision to dismiss was
made. The record establishes the following.
or about November 1, 2018, Ayers was arrested on five theft
charges and a charge of receiving stolen property. Ayers was
arraigned on November 5, 2018. He was held on a secured
bond on those charges from November 1, 2018 until November 5,
2018, when CCP changed the bond to an unsecured amount.
However, because Ayers was held on another matter by Superior
Court, he remained incarcerated until his trial date on
January 7, 2019.
State prepared an information, which was dated November 27,
2018. The State provided defendant's counsel with a copy
of that information. The State and defense counsel negotiated
a plea to resolve the charges. On January 7, 2019, when the
defendant was about to enter the plea, the Clerk noted to the
Court that there was no information in the file nor was there
an entry in the court docket indicating that an information
had been filed. The Court stated that an information has to
be docketed in order for the Court to have jurisdiction. It
further explained that it had to rely on its docket, and the
docket did not show that an information had been filed. The
State then described a recent episode where an information
had not been docketed in another case and after taking a
recess, the Court found the information. The State suggested
the lack of a docket entry showing that the information had
been filed did not support the conclusion that CCP did not
have possession of a filed information. At this point, the
Clerk noted that the Clerk had sent a notice to the
Clerk's court manager and the court manager checked. The
Clerk does not specify what the court manager checked. It
appears that the Court Clerk was advising the Court that
staff had checked the Clerk's office and had not located
an information in its file. At that point, defense counsel
moved to dismiss the case because the information had not
been filed. The Court ruled:
THE COURT: It's a jurisdictional defect that the Court
Mr. Ayers, I'm going to dismiss these charges against
State had its copy of the information in the courtroom with
it, but did not offer it to the Court and did not request a
recess to make a copy of the information and file it with the
Clerk's Office before the plea was entered.
State has appealed CCP's dismissal of the case.
standard of review of an appeal from CCP is as follows:
The Superior Court is authorized to consider appeals from the
Court of Common Pleas in criminal matters. When addressing
appeals from the Court of Common Pleas, the Superior Court
acts as an intermediate appellate court, with the same
function as that of the Supreme Court. In considering an
appeal from the Court of Common Pleas to the Superior Court,
the Superior Court determines whether there is legal error
and whether the factual findings made by the trial judge are
sufficiently supported by the record. Factual findings by the
Court of Common Pleas are given deference and are reviewed
for clear error. Legal questions are reviewed de
novo (footnotes and citations omitted).
order for this case to have been prosecuted in CCP, an
information had to be filed. Settled law indicates
that absent the filing of an information, CCP lacked
jurisdiction over the case. Thus, CCP's decision
determining it lacked jurisdiction was legally correct.
State, however, argues that the trial court, without stating
it, dismissed the action pursuant to CCP Crim. Rule
48(b) and consequently, abused its
discretion. It argues that CCP should have come up with an
alternative remedy sua sponte, such as asking the
State for a copy of the information, continuing the case for
the State to submit an information, or allowing the State to
file a copy of the information prior to accepting Ayers'
plea. The State cites to the case of State v.
Robinson in support of that argument.
lack of an information in the court's file at the time of
the plea was not fatal; an information could have been
presented in open court at the time of the
plea. If the State had provided the Court
its copy of the information which was in its file, the Court
should have accepted it. If the State had requested time to
make a copy of the information and clock it in with the
Court, the Court below should have allowed it. If the Court
below had disallowed these remedies and dismissed the
information pursuant to CCP Criminal Rule 48(b), then this
Court would have reviewed that dismissal under an abuse of
discretion standard and most likely, based upon the
facts of the case, would have reversed that decision.
However, that scenario did not happen because the State took
no steps to provide an alternative remedy to CCP.
Court below did not dismiss the action under CCP Criminal
Rule 48(b); it decided it lacked jurisdiction because no
information was filed. Consequently, this Court will not
review CCP's action under an abuse of discretion
standard. The State argues that pursuant to
Robinson, the trial court should have imposed less
harsh remedies. Robinson does not support that
contention. In that case, the trial court sua sponte
considered other remedies short of dismissing a first degree
murder case and the Supreme Court stated the trial
court's consideration of those remedies was
appropriate. However, Robinson does not
impose an affirmative duty on a trial court to provide
remedies short of a dismissal for actions the State has or