Stare decisis is the law of precedent that governs decisions in court cases. If the court previously has decided and issued a ruling on a specific issue, the court will rely on stare decisis to make decisions in cases in which the same question arises. In other words, the court generally will follow its prior decisions concerning the same issues, without reevaluating those decisions in any way. Courts follow both their past decisions and those of higher courts.
In some cases, however, the court will opt to deviate from prior court decisions. For instance, the court may distinguish the case that it is considering based on the facts that were present in the previous decision. This may allow the court to reach a resolution that differs from its precedent in some way. In rare cases, a court may reconsider one of its prior decisions altogether and overrule it or reach an opposite result.
Stare decisis, or precedent can be binding or non-binding. A court’s own prior decisions are non-binding precedent. As a result, courts have the power to deviate from, distinguish, or overrule its own decisions. In other cases, however, precedent is binding, and courts must follow it. For example, if the U.S. Supreme Court already has decided an issue, all lower courts must follow it. This is because the higher Court’s decisions are binding on the lower courts.
As a result, when specific issues arise in your criminal case, you must be aware of binding and non-binding precedent on those issues and how that might impact the outcome of your case. Courts routinely defer to their prior decisions based on stare decisis. While not impossible, it generally is much more difficult to argue that a court should overrule its previous non-binding decisions than to follow them. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys.