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State v. Garoutte

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant moved to dismiss criminal prosecution for misdemeanor manslaughter based on a state compromise statute that allowed for dismissal of the misdemeanor if there existed a civil suit on the same cause of action.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Civil suits and criminal prosecutions should be kept separate. The state legislature is required to clarify the statute to ensure this result.

    Facts. Defendant was charged with misdemeanor manslaughter after he killed a man while driving his car. The deceased’s family received damages from a civil settlement involving Defendant. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the criminal case per an Arizona “compromise statute”, which essentially stated that if a person injured has a civil remedy, unless there was criminal intent, Defendant may be entitled for a dismissal of the misdemeanor criminal charge. The Trial Court dismissed the case based on this statute and the State appealed.

    Issue. Whether Defendant was entitled to dismissal of the criminal prosecution based on the Arizona compromise statute.

    Held. Affirmed, the situation calls for clarification by the state legislature.
    Civil suits and criminal prosecutions should be kept separate and the fact that a man might be able to pay for damages due to his negligence should not save him from criminal prosecution.

    The current statute has an incongruous result. A drunk driver can go to jail if he does not injure anyone, but can be free of any charge if there is a civil remedy available. The state legislature must clarify this statute.


    Discussion. The State statute in question was amended after this case. The Court focused on a discussion on the several States that had adopted similar “compromise statutes.” The policy behind these statutes was to identify offenses that were really private offenses rather than public offenses and thus the public interest was served in checking criminal prosecutions rather than furthering them. The Court here stated that these statutes were old fashioned and did not take into account the emerging traffic violations such as vehicular manslaughters that could cost someone their l


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