Review of New Jersey speedy trial
Submitted by New Jersey DWI Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In this case the defendant was charged with a DWI. The trial did not take place for more than 2 1/2 years after the defendant was charged. He had gone through three attorneys and the final attorney only brought up the speedy trial demand at the time of trial.
I am reviewing the current status of New Jersey speedy trial law at this time based on the most recent changes to the New Jersey criminal procedure rules which require a very strict adherence to the new set of timelines regarding the date of arraignments, pretrial conference, indictment and trial all from the date of arrest. I will also be writing a blog shortly outlining the changes to the Criminal Rules of Court.
I have previously written a blog outlining the change in criminal procedure. This long-standing case law will now be reviewed and used against the back drop of the new speedy trial rules. New Jersey’s speedy trial rules were adopted from the US Supreme Court case of Barker V Wingo,
407 US 514 (1972). New Jersey adopted this decision in State v. Shona, 70
NJ 196 (1976). Barker announced a four factor test the court must
balance before making a determination that a defendant speedy trial right have been violated. They are:
- length of delay;
- reason for delay;
- assertion of a speedy trial claim and;
- prejudice to the defendant as a result of the delay
If a delay exceed one year the balance of the Barker actors have to be examined. This was recently announced in New Jersey in the matter of State V Cahill 213 NJ 253 (2013). With regards to the “cause of the delay”
prong, delays caused by the defendant will not fall in their favor of a violation of defendants speedy trial claim. Additionally, legitimate and substantial reasons for the delay in the defendant’s trial will not weigh in favor of that defendants claim as well. The examination by the court involves determining whether the delays were “reasonably explained or unjustified”. Court delays and caseload delays will weigh against the
government however less heavily than deliberate state delays. In this case the trial delays were related to the defendant’s own attorneys requesting extended periods of delay while the state was ready to proceed.
Those delays do not weigh in favor of finding a speedy trial violation.
With regards to the third factor, ‘the defendant’s assertion of a speedy trial right’, this defendant did not make such a demand until the day of trial. This court recognizes absence of such an assertion by a defendant at the beginning of the case always must be considered when determining if the defendant actually made a timely assertion of said rights. In other words you can’t have it both ways; not demand A speedy trial, and then cry foul when you don’t get one. You have to assert your entitlement for there to be a violation of that right.
The final factor addresses and evaluates any alleged prejudice a defendant will experience from the failure of the trial to commence as soon as practicable. Often this prejudice will be found in the destruction of documents or the failure to obtain and bring to trial witnesses to testify. Anxiety related to charges, employment interruptions, unresolved prosecutions, and a drain on finances, are all prejudices however, less serious in the eyes of the court than the inability of a defendant to present witnesses, documents or testimony at his or her trial.
In weighing all the Barker factors as a whole the court concluded the defendants did not suffer any speedy trial claims. The delay was his fault, he asserted his speedy trial claim at the 11th hour, and he suffered no actual prejudice as a result of the delay.
Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.