Ex parte Matthews – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Ex parte Matthews, 933 S.W.2d 134 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996), the Court of Criminal Appeals determined "a person is 'accused' from the time any 'criminal action' is commenced against him."

The Matthews court found that adopting the State's interpretation of "accused" to mean the person now accused ". . . ignores both the language of Article 12.05(a) as well as its predecessors and caselaw construing and applying them, and would defeat the beneficent intent and studied purpose of statutes of limitation--essentially insisting that prosecutorial authorities exercise all due diligence obtaining and presenting a formal accusation of an offense against a person--ordinarily one who is already a criminally 'accused.'" Ex parte Matthews, 933 S.W.2d at 137.

The court further noted that "the prosecution was free to toll running of the statute of limitation by simply filing and pursuing pre-indictment whatever accusatory pleading or paper it preferred for that purpose. Having failed to do so, the prosecution allowed the applicable statute of limitation to run unabated. Appellant is entitled to the amnesty granted by the Legislature to all citizens similarly situated." Id. at 138.

The court concluded, "because it comports with legislative intent and purpose consistently manifested and judicially implemented since at least 1857, we hold that Article 12.05(a) operates to toll the statutory limitations period only when the citizen has been effectively accused of an offense." Id.