Monday, May 7, 2018

How Long is Too Long? 29 month DWI Case

Waiting for court on your case
A recent appellate decision on a New York DWI case has me scratching my head. In People v. Pena-Encarnacion, Case Number: 2014-736QCR, the defendant was first arraigned on the charges August 29, 2011 and the matter ended in 2013. This case was appealed and decided last week in 2018!

It started with a man alleged to gone through a steady red signal, and to have been DWI in Queens, NY. He was charged with two different DWIs, common law DWI and DWI per se, over .08 BAC. The case ended with a bench trial (judge trial) 29 months later, yes that's no typo, twenty-nine months later. Being found guilty of DWAI alcohol by the judge. The case went up on appeal.

Did the higher court decide there was a violation of his speedy trial right?
Did the higher court decide there was any impropriety because the District Attorney didn't provide a calibration report till right before trial?
Did the higher court believe that the long delay affected his defense?

New York Speedy Trial Can Be Constitutional or Statutory

NYS CPL § 30.20  Speedy trial; in general.
    1.  After a criminal action is commenced, the defendant is entitled to
  a speedy trial.
In other words, speedy trial rights can be just based upon not following the time periods or just too long by it's nature. Referred to as the CPL 30.30 speedy trial or just 30/30 is tricky because the court charges each side with delays. But so often delays occur because of administrative reasons, and so often the prosecutors get to force delays because they are not always forthcoming with evidence. It's not cut and dried so to speak, it has layers of complicated rules.

NYS CPL § 30.30 Speedy trial; time limitations.
    1.  Except  as  otherwise provided in subdivision three, a motion made
  pursuant to paragraph (e)  of  subdivision  one  of  section  170.30  or
  paragraph (g) of subdivision one of section 210.20 must be granted where
  the people are not ready for trial within:
    (a)  six  months  of  the  commencement of a criminal action wherein a
  defendant is accused of one or more offenses, at least one of which is a
    (b) ninety days of the commencement of a  criminal  action  wherein  a
  defendant is accused of one or more offenses, at least one of which is a
  misdemeanor  punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of more than three
  months and none of which is a felony;

New York Discovery Delays Can Be Justice Denials

In this case we have prosecutors not handing over a vital piece of information, the calibration report. How the machine was calibrated, or was it calibrated, or was it calibrated properly? Anyway, what started as a DWI (.08 BAC or more) case ended as a DWAI case (.05 to .07 BAC case).

If you want to read about New York's dirty little secret with discovery see here:

The higher court eventually dismissed the DWAI. They believed there was not sufficient evidence for    that charge presented at the bench trial. Now DWAI alcohol requires merely a showing or minimal impairment (to any extent) so that shows you what a bad DWI case this really was.

But the higher court did not view the extensive delays or the 29 months as being a violation of speedy trial.

But the higher court did not think the prosecutor's giving up the calibration report right before trial (29 months later) was a violation of discovery.

But the higher court reasoned since the defendant wasn't in jail all this time it didn't affect his right to a fair trial or that anything that occurred prejudiced him.

Maybe the dismissal of the DWAI was there way of showing justice.