In State v. Andrade, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the Georgia Court of Appeals’ dismissal of the State’s appeal.
The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals erred in finding that the State did not timely file its notice of appeal and remanded the case back for a decision on the merits.
The defendant was charged with three counts of rape and one count of burglary. The trial court granted his motion to suppress his statements to the police finding that the statements were involuntarily made. Seventeen days after the motion was granted, the State appealed but the Court of Appeals held that, under OCGA § 5-7-1(a)(5), the State was required to file its appeal within two days of the order.
Under OCGA § 5-7-1(a)(4), the State has 30 days to file a notice of appeal, including appeals involving orders “suppressing or excluding evidence illegally seized or excluding the results of any test for alcohol or drugs.” In 2013, the legislature added subsection (a)(5) to provide that if the State is appealing “an order, decision, or judgment excluding any other evidence to be used by the State at trial,” it must file it’s notice of appeal within two days after the decision by the trial court.
The State argued, and the Supreme Court agreed, that it had actually brought the appeal under subsection (a)(4). The crux of the disagreement between the two higher courts stemmed from a difference of understanding concerning the meaning of the phrase other evidence.
The Supreme Court explained that, when subsection (a)(5) was enacted in 2013, the legislature made no changes to subsection (a)(4), which had previously been interpreted to cover the appeal of any orders that suppress or exclude “evidence on the ground that it was obtained in violation of law.” The Court reasoned that an order suppressing a defendant’s statement to police on the ground that it was involuntary is such an order. Thus, the Court concluded that the Court of Appeals was mistaken in ruling that the new subsection was intended to encompass the order in the defendant’s case.
The Supreme Court concluded that subsection (a)(5) is most naturally and reasonably interpreted to only apply to the exclusion of evidence on other grounds, such as evidence excluded pursuant to general rules of evidence.
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