If You are Discharged from A Crime, Does it Mean You are Innocent?
If a person is discharged by the court for a crime they allegedly committed, does that mean that the person is innocent? Can the prosecution recharge him? In short, no, a person is not automatically innocent, and yes, he can be recharge for the crime he allegedly committed. Below is a snippet on this issue.
Who has the power to discharge an accused?
The court, the public prosecution, and the prosecuting officer. In this regards:
- The court can discharge an accused at any time before calling him to enter his defense, provided that:
- The complaint against the accused is instituted by a private person under oath;
- The person who filed the complaint did not show up in court during the hearing; and
- The offense is compoundable.
- The court can discharge an accused if at any stage of a trial, before the delivery of the judgment, if the prosecutor decides to drop all charges against the accused, provided that:
- The prosecution has informed the court of his intention to drop the charges; and
- It does not mean that the accused is acquitted unless the court expressly says so.
- Similarly, the prosecution officer can inform the court that he does not propose further to prosecute the accused, provided that:
- The prosecution officer has asked for a stay of proceedings for the accused to be discharged; and
- Obtained a leave from the court to stay the proceedings. However, the court refuses to cede to the request, the accused will not be discharge- meaning the trial must go on.
In the situation 2 & 3 above (and assuming that the court orders the accused to be discharged), the court will either orders a:
- Discharge amounting to an acquittal (DAA) – an accused is acquitted of the crimes he allegedly commits; or
- Discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) – an accused can be hauled back to court for retrial.
Where is the sense in an order for DNAA?
More often than not:
- There might be insufficient evidence against the accused, and the prosecution needs more time to collect evidence;
- The investigation against the accused is incomplete; and
- The prosecution will need more time to ensure that justice is meted out according to the prescribed laws.
Whats happens in an order for DAA?
The accused is found to be innocent. He cannot be hauled to the court again for the same charge/ crime. This right is actually enshrined in our Federal Constitution (specifically, Article 7(2)), which prevents an accused from being charge time and time again for the same offense after being acquitted by the courts.
When to Apply DAA or DNAA?
Both are situational and are dependant on the facts of each case.
However, the court has always lean in favor of DAA. The court (in Koh Teck Chai v PP) stated that if a public prosecutor discontinues its proceedings, it is only appropriate to grant a DAA to an accused as it is not right to have a charge hanging over an accused unless the public prosecution has a very good ground to do so.
Similarly in PP v Lau Ngiik Yin, the court held that when a prosecution has shown disinterestedness in prosecuting an accused or the prosecution is not able to prosecute the case for good reason and it is unlikely the case can be prosecuted expeditiously in the short future, it is only appropriate to order a DAA as “the liberty of His Majesty’s subject cannot be placed by a continuous threat of prosecution”.
So yes, unless the court orders a DAA, an accused is not automatically innocent, and can still be recharge for a crime he allegedly committed.