Is a Six Month Speedy Trial Period Applicable to a Case of Felony Even Though It Began As a Misdemeanor Prosecution ?
In People v. Cooper, 90 N.Y.2d 292, 660 N.Y.S.2d 546, 683 N.E.2d 11 (1997), the People initially filed a misdemeanor complaint charging defendant with two counts of driving while intoxicated.
At defendant's arraignment the prosecution served notice of their intention to submit charges to the Grand Jury after discovering that defendant had one prior conviction for driving while intoxicated.
The People subsequently replaced the misdemeanor complaint and elevated the counts by filing an instrument charging defendant with 'two felony counts of driving while intoxicated.
The defendant argued that the People should have been held to the speedy trial time applicable to a misdemeanors.
The People acknowledged that they failed to answer ready within 90 days of the action's commencement but argued that they should be entitled to the six month period applicable to felony prosecutions.
The Court of Appeals held that the case was subject to the six month speedy trial period applicable to felonies even though it had begun as a misdemeanor prosecution.
In People v. Woolcock, NYLJ 10/2/00, p.32, col. 4 (Crim. Ct. Kings Co.) (Gubbay, J.), the court rejected the application of Cooper in situations involving misdemeanor reductions.
The court reasoned that the Cooper decision; which dealt only with the elevation of criminal charges, was concerned with preserving the People's statutory right to have six months from the commencement of a felony action to prepare for trial. See, Cooper, at 295; CPL 30.30(1)(a).
The Court in Cooper noted that:
"the speedy trial statute embodies the Legislature's measured determination that the People are entitled to six months to prepare for a felony trial.
To accept defendant's argument in this case would penalize the People by reducing their felony trial preparation by three months based simply on the fortuity that the defendant was originally charged with a misdemeanor". See, Cooper, at 295