Under Massachusetts procedure, a ‘two-tier’ system is utilized for trial of a variety of criminal charges. The initial trial under this system is in a county district court or the Municipal Court of the City of Boston. No jury is available in these courts, but persons who are convicted in them may obtain a de novo trial, with a jury, in the appropriate superior court by lodging an ‘appeal’ with that court. At the de novo trial, all issues of law and fact must be determined anew and are not affected by the initial disposition. In effect, the taking of the appeal vacates the district court or Municipal Court judgment, leaving the defendant in the position of defendants in other States which require the prosecution to present its proof before a jury.
A New York Criminal Lawyer said in January 1974, appellant was charged with knowing unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, an offense under Mass.Gen.Laws, c. 90 § 24(2)(a). The offense is subject to the two-tier system described above. Prior to trial in the Municipal Court, appellant moved for a jury trial. The motion was denied and the trial before the court resulted in a judgment of guilty. A one-year prison sentence was imposed. Appellant thereupon lodged an appeal in the Superior Court for SuffolkCounty.
Without awaiting proceedings in Superior Court, appellant appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court, seeking to establish that the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments require that a jury be available in his first trial, whether it be in the Municipal Court or the Superior Court. He also raised speedy trial and double jeopardy contentions as bars to his retrial before a jury.
According to the court, it is clear that appellant can raise his constitutional issues in Superior Court by a motion to dismiss, and can obtain state appellate review of an adverse decision through appeal to the state high court. That the issue might be mooted by his acquittal in Superior Court is, of course, without consequence, since an important purpose of the requirement that the appellant review only final judgments of highest available state courts is to prevent its interference with state proceedings when the underlying dispute may be otherwise resolved.
The Court reiterated that the proceeding in the county court was a distinct suit. It disposed of the charge. The possibility that the appellant might obtain release by a subsequent and distinct proceeding, and one not in the nature of a review of the pending charge, in the same or a different court of the State does not affect the finality of the existing judgment or the fact that this judgment was obtained in the highest state court available to the appellant.
Here the Municipal Court proceeding did not finally dispose of the charge, and the proceeding in Superior Court is not a distinct suit or proceeding. It is instead based on precisely the same complaint as was the Municipal Court trial. In Largent case relied upon by the appellant, the available review on habeas corpus was not based on the record in county court for the reason that habeas review was sharply limited in scope. Similarly, in Bandini Co., cited in Largent, the ‘distinct suit’ was a proceeding for a writ of prohibition in which the only litigable issue was lower court jurisdiction.
Here, on the contrary, the review is not circumscribed so as to be narrower than normal appellate-type review on the record made in an inferior court, but is instead so broad as to permit de novo relitigation of all aspects of the offense charged, whether they be factual or legal. A Queens Criminal Lawyer said it is because of the breadth of appellate review, not its narrowness, as in Largent, that the record is not the basis of review in Superior Court. Greater identity of proceedings in two different courts would be difficult to imagine, and it would be strange indeed to class the Superior Court trial as a form of ‘collateral’ review of the Municipal Court judgment in the same sense as habeas corpus is traditionally thought of as a ‘collateral attack’ on a judgment of conviction.
The appeal is dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
Our New York Criminal Lawyers from Stephen Bilkis and Associates have in-depth experiences on criminal procedures relating to your case, whether you have been charged with theft, drug possession or sex crimes. It has offices similarly situated in New York Metropolitan area, including Corona, New York.