California Landmark Cases on speedy trial
The right to a speedy trial is a fundamental right guaranteed by both the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 15 of the California Constitution. (Rhinehart v. Municipal Court (1984) 35 Cal.3d 772, 776.)
The purpose of the speedy trial right, applicable in both felony and misdemeanor prosecutions, is "(i) to prevent oppressive pretrial incarceration; (ii) to minimize anxiety and concern of the accused; and (iii) to limit the possibility that the defense will be impaired." (Barker v. Wingo (1972) 407 U.S. 514; see People v. Martinez (2000) 22 Cal.4th 750, 768.)
"To implement an accused's constitutional right to a speedy trial, the Legislature enacted section 1382." (Rhinehart, at p. 776; accord, People v. Harrison (2005) 35 Cal.4th 208, 225 "California Legislature has 're-expressed and amplified' these fundamental guarantees by various statutory enactments, including Penal Code section 1382."; Martinez, at p. 766 "statutory speedy trial provisions, Penal Code sections 1381 to 1389.8, are 'supplementary to and a construction of' the state constitutional speedy trial guarantee".)
The federal and state constitutional speedy trial rights differ from each other in certain respects and also differ from the statutory right set forth in section 1382 even though it was enacted to amplify those constitutional rights. (See People v. Martinez, supra, 22 Cal.4th at p. 765 "although similar in wording and spirit to the federal Constitution's speedy trial guarantee, the state Constitution's guarantee has independent force and operates somewhat differently from the federal provision".) One significant difference is "the point at which the speedy trial right attaches." (Id. at p. 754.)
"Under the federal Constitution ... the speedy trial right does not attach upon the filing of a felony complaint, but only upon either arrest with continuing restraint or the filing of an indictment, an information, or a complaint charging a misdemeanor. Under the state Constitution, by contrast, the filing of a felony or misdemeanor complaint is sufficient to trigger speedy trial protection." (Id. at p. 765; see Serna v. Superior Court (1985) 40 Cal.3d 239, right to speedy trial in misdemeanor prosecution "attaches under the California Constitution when a criminal complaint is filed".)
Notwithstanding "the United States Supreme Court has clearly rejected the proposition that the constitutional right to a speedy trial '... can be quantified into a specified number of days or months'" (Townsend v. Superior Court (1975) 15 Cal.3d 774, 781-782), section 1382 enforces the speedy trial right with specific deadlines measured by days after certain events, including arraignment, declaration of a mistrial or entry of an order granting a new trial from which no appeal is taken, that differ depending on whether the case is a felony, on one hand, or a misdemeanor or infraction, on the other hand. (Compare 1382, subd. (a)(2) felony cases with 1382, subd. (a)(3) misdemeanor or infraction cases.)
The nature of the showing a defendant must make to obtain a dismissal for violation of his or her speedy trial right also differs depending on the source of that right.
"For the federal Constitution's speedy trial right, the United States Supreme Court has articulated a balancing test that requires consideration of the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of the right, and prejudice to the defense caused by the delay. Because delay that is 'uncommonly long' triggers a presumption of prejudice , a defendant can establish a speedy trial claim under the Sixth Amendment without making an affirmative demonstration that the government's want of diligence prejudiced the defendant's ability to defend against the charge." (People v. Martinez, supra, 22 Cal.4th at p. 755.)
"Under the state Constitution, by comparison, the showing that the defendant must make depends upon whether the allegedly unreasonable delay occurred before or after the defendant's statutory speedy trial rights attached. ... No affirmative showing of prejudice is necessary to obtain a dismissal for violation of the state constitutional speedy trial right as construed and implemented by statute. Instead, 'an unexcused delay beyond the time fixed in section 1382 of the Penal Code without defendant's consent entitles the defendant to a dismissal.'" (People v. Martinez, supra, 22 Cal.4th at p. 766; see Gallenkamp v. Superior Court (1990) 221 Cal.App.3d 1, 17 270 Cal. Rptr. 346 "under Penal Code section 1382 analysis, prejudice is presumed once the statutory period has passed; a defendant need not show any other harm"; see generally 1382, subd. (a).)
However, "because the state constitutional speedy trial right is self-executing and broader than its statutory implementation, a defendant may claim a violation of the state Constitution's speedy trial right based on delay not covered by any statutory speedy trial provision. Thus, a defendant charged with a felony may predicate a claimed speedy trial violation on delay occurring after the filing of the complaint and before the defendant was held to answer the charge in superior court. In this situation, when the claimed speedy trial violation is not also a violation of any statutory speedy trial provision, the California Supreme Court has generally required the defendant to affirmatively demonstrate that the delay has prejudiced the ability to defend against the charge. In particular, the court has held that when a defendant seeks dismissal based on delay after the filing of the complaint and before indictment or holding to answer on felony charges, a court must weigh 'the prejudicial effect of the delay on defendant against any justification for the delay.' No presumption of prejudice arises from delay after the filing of the complaint and before arrest or formal accusation by indictment or information ; rather, the defendant seeking dismissal must affirmatively demonstrate prejudice ." (People v. Martinez, supra, 22 Cal.4th at pp. 766-767.)
In Scherling v. Superior Court (1978) 22 Cal.3d 493, the California Supreme Court examined the scope and application of the right to a speedy trial under state and federal law and determined that "under California as well as federal law, the right to a speedy trial clearly attaches after an arrest or the filing of an indictment or information. (United States v. Marion (1971) 404 U.S. 307, 320.)
Unlike federal law, however, this state has extended the right to the preindictment and prearrest stage, holding that it attaches under article I, section 15, of our Constitution after a complaint has been filed. But the consequence of a violation depends upon the stage at which a violation of the right occurs.
The right to a speedy trial following the filing of an indictment or information and the time limitations applicable thereto are set forth by statuteand a violation of the statute is presumed to be prejudicial.
A violation at a prior stage depends upon a balancing of the prejudicial effect of the delay and the justification therefor. " (Scherling, supra, 22 Cal.3d at p. 504.)
"No presumption of prejudice arises from delay after the filing of the complaint and before arrest or formal accusation by indictment or information ; rather, the defendant seeking dismissal must affirmatively demonstrate prejudice ." (People v. Martinez (2000) 22 Cal.4th 750 at p. 767.)
"'Even a minimal showing of prejudice may require dismissal if the proffered justification for delay is insubstantial. By the same token, the more reasonable the delay, the more prejudice the defense would have to show to require dismissal. ...' " (Conrad, supra, 145 Cal.App.4th at p. 1185.)
However, "the trial court must engage in the balancing process only if the defendant has shown actual prejudice.The reason is simple: 'If defendant fails to show prejudice, the court need not inquire into the justification for the delay since there is nothing to "weigh" such justification against.' " (Craft v. Superior Court (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 1533, 1541.)
The same balancing test is used in determining claims that preaccusation delay resulted in a denial of due process. (People v. Catlin (2001) 26 Cal.4th 81, 107 109 Cal. Rptr. 2d 31, 26 P.3d 357 (Catlin); People v. Boysen (2007) 165 Cal.App.4th 761, 772 62 Cal.Rptr.3d 350 (Boysen).)
As the California high court in Catlin stated, "Delay in prosecution that occurs before the accused is arrested or the complaint is filed may constitute a denial of the right to a fair trial and to due process of law under the state and federal Constitutions. A defendant seeking to dismiss a charge on this ground must demonstrate prejudice arising from the delay. The prosecution may offer justification for the delay, and the court considering a motion to dismiss balances the harm to the defendant against the justification for the delay.A claim based upon the federal Constitution also requires a showing that the delay was undertaken to gain a tactical advantage over the defendant. " (Catlin, supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 107.)
Among other things, "'prejudice for due process or speedy trial violation claims may be shown by loss of material witnesses due to lapse of timeor loss of evidence because of fading memory attributable to the delay.' " (Catlin, supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 107.)
The overarching theme is that the loss of such evidence, especially where the defendant or victims cannot independently recall details of the crime, makes it difficult or impossible for the defendant to prepare a defense thus showing prejudice. (See People v. Pellegrino (1978) 86 Cal.App.3d 776, 780 150 Cal. Rptr. 486 (Pellegrino).)
As the Court recognized in Boysen, supra, 165 Cal.App.4th 761, because "due process is ultimately tied to the fundamental conceptions of justice that lie at the base of our civil and political institutions and which define the community's sense of fair play and decency" (id. at p. 774), it is also shown to be "properly offended when, with little or no justification, the government waits decades to bring a prosecution and that delay has demonstrably placed the defense at a profound and perhaps fatal disadvantage" (ibid.).
In addition, although a federal speedy trial case, the reasoning in Doggett v. United States (1992) 505 U.S. 647, is instructive on the issue of showing prejudice for analyzing either speedy trial or due process violations as the constitutional guarantees "converge in protecting the same interest of the accused" for a fair adjudication. (Martinez, supra, 22 Cal.4th at p. 768.)
The court in Doggett noted "that impairment of one's defense is the most difficult form of speedy trial prejudice to prove because time's erosion of exculpatory evidence and testimony 'can rarely be shown.'And though time can tilt the case against either side, citations, one cannot generally be sure which of them it has prejudiced more severely. Thus, we generally have to recognize that excessive delay presumptively compromises the reliability of a trial in ways that neither party can prove or, for that matter, identify. While such presumptive prejudice cannot alone carry a Sixth Amendment speedy trial claim ... , it is part of the mix of relevant facts, and its importance increases with the length of the delay." (Doggett, supra, 505 U.S. at pp. 655-656.)
If a defendant meets his initial burden of showing prejudice from a preaccusation delay for either a due process or state constitutional speedy trial claim, "the prosecution must show justification for the delay. If the prosecution does that, the trial court must balance the prejudice to the defendant resulting from the delay against the prosecution's justification for the delay. " (People v. Lowe (2007) 40 Cal.4th 937, 942 56 Cal. Rptr. 3d 209, 154 P.3d 358; see Martinez, supra, 22 Cal.4th at pp. 766-767.)
In so balancing the interests, "it is important to remember that prosecutors are under no obligation to file charges as soon as probable cause exists but before they are satisfied that guilt can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt or before the resources are reasonably available to mount an effective prosecution. Any other rule 'would subordinate the goal of orderly expedition to that of mere speed.' " (Boysen, supra, 165 Cal.App.4th at p. 777.)
On the other hand, "'the prosecutors cannot simply place gathered evidence ... on the "back burner" hoping that it will some day simmer into something more prosecutable ... .'" (Pellegrino, supra, 86 Cal.App.3d at p. 781.)
Nor may "the requirement of a legitimate reason for the prosecutorial delay ... be met simply by showing an absence of deliberate, purposeful or oppressive police conduct. A 'legitimate reason' logically requires something more than the absence of governmental bad faith. Negligence on the part of police officers in gathering evidence or in putting the case together for presentation to the district attorney, or incompetency on the part of the district attorney in evaluating a case for possible prosecution can hardly be considered a valid police purpose justifying a lengthy delay which results in the deprivation of a right to a fair trial." (Penney v. Superior Court (1972) 28 Cal.App.3d 941, 953 105 Cal. Rptr. 162.)
As the Court noted in Boysen, supra, 165 Cal.App.4th 761, "the balancing task is a delicate one, 'a minimal showing of prejudice may require dismissal if the proffered justification for delay is insubstantial. Likewise, the more reasonable the delay, the more prejudice the defense would have to show to require dismissal.' " (Id. at p. 777.)
Whether preaccusation delay is unreasonable and prejudicial to a defendant is a question of fact. (People v. Dunn-Gonzalez (1996) 47 Cal.App.4th 899, 911-912 55 Cal. Rptr. 2d 404.) If the trial court concludes the delay denied the defendant due process or his constitutional speedy trial rights, the remedy is generally dismissal of the charge. (Id. at p. 912; Boysen, supra, 165 Cal.App.4th at p. 777.) "A trial court has discretion, however, to fashion a remedy other than dismissal when the prosecutor's conduct has resulted in an identifiable loss of evidence favorable to the defense. " (Conrad, supra, 145 Cal.App.4th at p. 1185.)