In a trial for a statutory violation can a judge pull a subjective term from the statute, that was not argued during the trial as grounds for guilt?

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In a trial for a statutory violation can a judge pull a subjective term from the statute, that was not argued during the trial as grounds for guilt?

I was charged with using a muffler bypass on a boat. The system switches between 2 exhaust systems – 1 under water, 1 above. The prosecution argued that I was bypassing the water exhaust. I argued that the above water system exits through a muffler and is legal. I provided diagrams, pictures and a CAD drawing of the system. The judge ruled I was guilty because the statute reads “efficient muffler”. The term “efficient” is subjective and never came up at trial and Iwasn’t able to argue it (I can easily argue it is “efficient”). Is that legal for him to do that? Should I appeal?

Asked on November 2, 2010 under Criminal Law, Minnesota

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

AlthoughI can see your point I guess what the Judge was doing - other than being picky - was to point out that you have not disputed the charge because you have not shown the elements that would allow you a valid defense.  "Efficient" was an element in the statute apparently.  So yes, then I would try and appeal although you generally can not raise new issues on appeal that were not raised in the lower court (except new evidence that has just come to light, etc.).  You have to argue that the decision was in some way improperly rendered given the charge and the facts presented. You should try, though, since the judge raised the issue in his decision. Good luck.


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