The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of a man’s drunk driving charge after a lower court’s mistake. John Kramer, was arrested in Muscatine County for first offense operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Kramer’s jury trial on the charge began on June 6th of 2007.

After the prosecutors presented their case, Kramer’s lawyer asked for an acquittal, citing a lack of sufficient evidence over who was driving the vehicle. District Court judge James Kelley agreed and said he was dismissing the case. Prosecutors for the state then pointed out that Kramer had actually admitted during his testimony that he had been driving the vehicle.

After reviewing the transcript of testimony, the judge said he was overruling his own acquittal motion. Kramer’s lawyers argued that the acquittal motion had already been given and could not be changed under the double jeopardy clause which prevents trying someone twice on the same crime after they’ve been acquitted. The judge agreed and dismissed the case.

The state appealed the dismissal, saying the district court could have corrected its error immediately and double jeopardy rules would not apply. The Appeals Court upheld the dismissal.

The Iowa Supreme Court says the trial judge did make a mistake in declaring that he could not amend his initial grant of acquittal. But the High Court says once the judge dismissed the case a second time and dismissed the jury, the double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution bars retrial of this matter. 

See the entire Iowa Supreme Court opinion here. PDF