In Lone Jack Missouri I was written a traffic ticket which had the description "Expired Plates" and was charged with violating ordinance number 3.169 which reads:
It shall be unlawful for any person to operate in this City a motor vehicle or trailer required to be registered as provided by law, unless a certificate of ownership has been issued.
I entered a plea of not guilty pointing out that the law reads "unless a certificate of ownership has been issued". Once I pointed this out the prosecutor scratched out the ordinance number I was charged with violating and instead put one that better served his purposes of prosecuting me for expired plates, ordinance number 3.165. I objected that the information on the ticket could not just be changed like that but he and the judge assured me it could be. The judge found me guilty and I now have several days to decide if I want to appeal the court's decision. While trying to decide if I want to appeal or not I have found out that the law the prosecutor was citing was Missouri Supreme Court Rule 37.39 which reads:
Any information charging an ordinance violation may be amended at any time before verdict or finding if:
(a) No additional or different ordinance violation is charged, and
(b) A defendantís substantial rights are not thereby prejudiced.
Point "a" of the above Supreme Court rule indicates the ordinance I was charged with violating cannot be changed, but that is exactly what the prosecutor did.
Taking this to appeals court could cost me a lot more than just paying it, but I am a man of principal and I do not believe the letter of the law is being adhered to. I would like to hear the opinion of someone knowledgeable on this subject before I decide if I want to appeal the courts original ruling. I only have a few more days before I have to make my decision, so time is of the essence!
1 Answer from Attorneys
This rule confused a lot of people. It might be easier to read it to say, "as long as the other rights rights of the defendant are intact, the state may amend the information (accusation) as long as they are not alleging that different action of the defendant is the basis of the prosecution." What seems to have happened in your case was the correction of a scrivener's error. Too few people stand on principal, and spend the money to appeal traffic cases.
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