Motion to Dismiss Due to Speedy Trial
Below is a redacted argument section from a motion to dismiss due to Speedy Trial. It was drafted in 2014 by Paul J. Notarianni.
The charging document in this matter ought to be dismissed for violation of the Defendant’s right to a speedy trial. The 6th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as the Maryland Declaration of Rights, firmly establish a Defendant’s right to a speedy trial. The Maryland Court of Appeals, citing the Supreme Court of the United States, has held that when a pre-trial delay is of “sufficient length, it becomes presumptively prejudicial, thereby triggering a balancing test which necessarily compels the courts to approach speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis.” (Divver v. State, 356 Md. 379 at 389 (1999) citing Brady v. State, 288 Md. 61, 65, 415 A.2d 1126, 1128 (1980); Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 at 530 (1972)).
The Maryland Court of Appeals, citing the Supreme Court of the United States, has held that there are four factors to be considered for speedy trial analysis. (Divver 356 Md. at 389). A court is to consider “length of delay, reason for the delay, the defendant’s assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant.” (Id. citing Baker 407 U.S. at 530).
As for the first factor, length of delay, the length is measured from the date of arrest, filing of indictment, information, or other formal charges, until the date of trial. (Diver 356 Md at 389, citing State v. Gee, 298 Md. 565, 569 (1984)). The Maryland Court of appeals has held that, for a District Court Case, “a delay of one year and sixteen days raises a presumption of prejudice and triggers the balancing test.”(Id.). In Divver, the Maryland Court of Appeals, took into consideration the lack of legal and factual complexity of the case, as well as the limited number of witnesses. (Id. at 391). The Court found the delay was of a “uniquely inordinate length for a relatively run-of-the-mill District Court case.”
As for the second factor, reason for delay, multiple factors are to be taken into account. The Maryland Court of Appeals has adopted the United States Supreme Court’s position on balancing cause for delay. “A deliberate attempt to delay the trial in order to hamper the defense should be weighted heavily against the government. A more neutral reason such as negligence or overcrowded courts should be weighted less heavily but nevertheless should be considered since the ultimate responsibility for such circumstances must rest with the government rather than with the defendant. Finally, a valid reason, such as a missing witness, should serve to justify appropriate delay.” (State v. Bailey, 319 Ms. 392, 412 (1990) citing Barker, 407 U.S. at 531)). In Divver, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that assigning cases for trial is the obligation of the State. (Divver at 391). The cause of a court to fail to timely assign a case for trial is immaterial. (Id.). “If the failure to assign the case was due to congestion or under-staffing of State offices, the delay is chargeable to the State.” (Id.)
As to the third factor, assertion of the right, a defendant has an obligation to assert his right to a speedy trial. (Id. at 393). A burden is placed on the State if “the trial date set by the assignment office is unsatisfactory in relation to the constitutional mandates, the State’s Attorney’s Office should request an earlier date, and, if necessary, ask the court to order compliance.” (Smith v. State, 276 Md. at 531).
As to the fourth factor, showing of actual prejudice, actual prejudice to the Defendant is to be considered. (Divver at 392). However, actual prejudice is only a factor, and its absence, in and of itself, does not weigh so heavily as to overshadow the first three factors. Id. Actual prejudice may be demonstrated by oppressive pretrial incarceration; anxiety and concern; and impairment of defense. (Id.) The Court of Appeals has held that these factors “should only prevail if the only countervailing considerations offered by the State are those connected with crowded dockets and prosecutorial caseloads. A defendant desiring a speedy trial, therefore, should have it within some reasonable time; and only special circumstances presenting a more pressing public need with respect to the case itself should suffice to justify delay.” (Id. quoting Baker 407 U.S. at 537.) A lack of actual prejudice favors the State, but not overwhelmingly. (Id.).
The Maryland Court of Appeals has overturned Special Court of Appeals in matters where no actual prejudice to a defendant was found. In Brady v. Maryland, the Special Court of Appeals found that a defendant’s right to speedy trial was not violated principally because he did not demonstrate actual prejudice in that his defense was not damaged by the delay and he had been released on bail. Brady v. Maryland, 46 Md. App. 518 (1980). The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed this decision, holding that the court “equated or confused actual prejudice . . . with presumed prejudice. Its conclusion was that Brady had not been able to show any prejudice, actual or presumed, and that, therefore, he was not entitled to dismissal. There was no mention of whatever offsetting weight the State’s neglect played.” (Brady 291 at 256-66.)
In interpreting the four factors, none of them are either a necessary or sufficient condition to finding a denial of speedy trial rights. (Divver at 394 citing Epps v. Maryland, 276 Md at 107; quoting Baker 407 U.S. at 533.) In Divver, the Court of Appeals found that three of the four factors, particularly the length of time, fell in favor of the defendant. With the only factor in the State’s favor was a showing of actual prejudice. (Id.). The Court of Appeals found that the defendant’s right to a speedy trial had been violated and the appropriate remedy was dismissal. (Id.).