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Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal of Case on Speedy Trial Grounds

calendar-1568148-300x199In Commonwealth v. Davis, the Appeals Court affirmed the allowance of the defendant’s motion to dismiss under Mass.R.Crim.P. 36(b). This rule of criminal procedure addresses a defendant’s right to a speedy trial and allows for a dismissal of the charges where a defendant is not brought to trial within one year after his arraignment, not including any “excludable” time – i.e., any period of delay resulting from justifiable delays or agreed upon continuances, as laid out under the rule. The decision was based on the fact that the defendant was not brought to trial within the requisite one-year time frame, and the Commonwealth failed to demonstrate that the delay was justified. The main focus of the decision was the justification for various “continuances contributing to the delay of the defendant’s trial.” Four of the continuances, “accounting for 268 days, [were] attributable to what the parties agree[d] was court congestion. The occasion of each of these four delays was a lack of any or a sufficient number of jurors, but the length of the delays was also due at least in part to the court’s calendar constraints…. The defendant objected to each of these delays and the motion judge found that these 268 days [were] attributable to the Commonwealth.”

In its decision, the Appeals Court “conclude[d] that delays attributable to court congestion — if the defendant objects — are not excludable from the rule 36 calculation [i.e., they do not stop the ticking speedy-trial clock], unless the judge makes the necessary findings under rule 36(b)(2)(F)” “or the defendant acquiesced in, was responsible for, or benefited from the delay.” Rule 36(b)(2)(F) states that “[n]o period of delay resulting from a continuance granted by the court in accordance with this paragraph shall be excludable … unless the judge sets forth in the record of the case, either orally or in writing, his reasons for finding that the ends of justice served by the granting of the continuance outweigh the best interests of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial.” Here, noted the Appeals Court, “no judge expressly invoked rule 36(b)(2)(F) in continuing this case…. [Although] in each instance of court congestion, the judge explained that there were no jurors or an inadequate number of jurors, and why,” “the rule requires more or it would be meaningless…. None of the [judges’] findings made in conjunction with the numerous continuances in this case satisfied the requirements of [the] rule.”

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it is of the utmost importance that you are represented by an attorney who is up to date on the law and who makes sure that all of your rights – including your rights to a speedy trial – are litigated and preserved. Attorney Daniel Cappetta considers every case from all angles and raises any all arguments possible in defense of his clients. Call him for a free consultation today.