KLOPFER V. NORTH CAROLINA, 386 U. S. 213 (1967)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213 (1967)

Klopfer v. North Carolina

No. 100

Argued December 8, 1966

Decided March 13, 1967

386 U.S. 213


Petitioner's trial on a North Carolina criminal trespass indictment ended with a declaration of a mistrial when the jury failed to reach a verdict. After the case had been postponed for two terms, petitioner filed a motion with the trial court in which he petitioned the court to ascertain when the State intended to bring him to trial. While this motion was being considered, the State's prosecutor moved for permission to take a "nolle prosequi with leave," a procedural device whereby the accused is discharged from custody but remains subject to prosecution at any time in the future at the discretion of the prosecutor. Although petitioner objected that the trespass charge was abated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and that entry of the nolle prosequi order would violate his federal right to a speedy trial, the trial court, without stated justification, granted the prosecutor's motion. On appeal, the State Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's action, holding that, while a defendant has a right to a speedy trial if there is to be a trial, that right does not require the State to prosecute if the prosecutor, in his discretion and with the court's approval, elects to take a nolle prosequi.

Held: By indefinitely postponing prosecution on the indictment over petitioner's objection and without stated justification, the State denied petitioner the right to a speedy trial guaranteed to him by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 386 U. S. 219-226.

266 N.C. 349, 145 S.E.2d 909, reversed and remanded.

Page 386 U. S. 214

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