Sunday, March 19, 2006

Speedy Trial Dismissal Ordered Where Defendant Hasn't Been Arraigned

In People v. Hauben Nassau District Court Judge Kenneth Gartner dismissed a violation of Harrassment 2d where the defendant was summoned to appear in court more than 30 days after the case was filed.

The case is based on a mildly unique set of facts. A claim of harassment was filed on or about September 16 2005. The facts allegedly took place in June some 3 months earlier. A summons issued on September 30th from the court directing the defendant to appear for arraignment on October 20th 2005. Discounting the day the case was filed, the summons to appear for arraignment was returnable more than 30 days after the date the the case was filed.

The district attorney argued that the speedy trial rule was inapplicable in the case at bar as there is an exception to the speedy trial rule where a defendant is ordered by the district attorney to appear. However the court held that although the DA may have overseen the service of process, summoning a person to the courthoue for arraignment is not the same as receiving a letter from the District Attorney ordering you to come to the courthouse for arraignment.

There is a suggestion to the Legislature that the law might want to be changed however, I think that in a county where there is a ridiculous must arrest order on domestic violence allegations, cases where the facts take place long before the case is filed would be better served by sending a District Attorney request to appear thereby negating the speedy trial problem. The issue here is the District Attorney wanted to have her cake and eat it too. They wanted the protection against speedy trial violations that CPL Sec. 30.30 (4)(i) provides as well as the the right to enforce the summons provided in CPL Section 120.20.

There is good public policy behind section 30.30(4)(i). It is meant to encourage the use of the surrender policy without employing (and thereby incurring the cost of)the court, sheriff and others. It is a sound cost savings measure. Most of these cases play out in the shadows of a civil divorce case. Both sides are already represented by attorneys. There should be no problem obtaining a surrender. The filing of the case with the issuance of a summons a waste of efforts and funds and should be avoided. The CPL 30.30 rule thus takes into account that in cases where the defendant refuses to follow the direction of the prosecuting authority, the prosecutrix will not be punished unfairly for using the less formal and less costly method provided for in CPL 120.20.

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