Case Details


Criminal Jurisdiction

Filing State



Kentucky Court of Appeals




Johnson v. Kentucky, 2012 Ky. App. LEXIS 10 (Ky. Ct. App. 2012)


Kentucky attorney general may not prosecute drug violations on his own when not invited to do by the Governor, the courts or the county prosecutor.

Case Description

Defendant sought to dismiss three counts of trafficking in a controlled substance, arguing that the Attorney General did not have jurisdiction to conduct an investigation in Powell County because no local law enforcement was involved in the investigation, and the Attorney General was not invited to participate, as required by Kentucky statutes. The district court denied his motion, and he appealed. The Attorney General argued that the investigation was within his common law and statutory powers. The Kentucky court of appeals reversed the trial court. The court held that Kentucky’s statutes provide that the Attorney General has all common law powers except when modified by statute. The court concluded that the legislature had determined that the Attorney General did not have “the common law power to investigate and prosecute cases at will” because of a statute that provides that the Attorney General may investigate only when requested in writing by the Governor, or by any of the courts or grand juries of the Commonwealth, or upon receiving a communication from a sheriff, mayor, or majority of a city legislative body” asking for his help Because none of the specified officials had requested that the Attorney General investigate this matter, the court of appeals remanded the case to the trial court for a determination as to whether the evidence gathered in the investigation could be used. In reaching this decision, the court distinguished the power to prosecute from the Attorney General’s power to bring cases to protect the public interest, which is very broad under Kentucky law..