Daily Court Reporter - News Senate bill would add two weeks to save speedy-trial violations
Senate bill would add two weeks to save speedy-trial violations
KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
A state senator and attorney by trade hopes to correct what he and state prosecutors believe is the disproportionate penalty that results from violation of Ohio's speedy trial statute.
Chardon Sen. John Eklund, a Republican, said the disproportionality arises from the seriousness of a defendant's underlying charge.
"Under current law, if the defendant is not brought to trial within the statutory time limit, the charges are dismissed with prejudice," the lawmaker told his peers seated for the Judiciary Committee hearing of bill. "As a consequence, the defendant cannot be further prosecuted on those charges, no matter how slight the violation, no matter how serious the charges and even though the violation does not prejudice the defendant.
"I believe the remedy, dismissal with prejudice, is greatly out of proportion to the nature of the violation."
Filed as Senate Bill 48, the measure would grant a prosecutor additional time to begin a trial after a charged felon has not been brought to trial in a timely manner required by statute, the Ohio Legislative Service Commission detailed in its analysis of the bill.
Current law, requires a trial must begin with 270 days for a defendant charged with a felony. Each day during which the accused is held in jail in lieu of bail on the pending charge must be counted as three days, state law provides.
Eklund said the law has resulted in a miscarriage of justice in many cases in which a defendant escapes liability for his criminal conduct simply because the trial date was mistakenly set beyond the statutory time limit.
"This proposal will avoid the harsh consequences of what is usually an innocent and inconsequential violation of an arbitrary statutory time limit," he said.
On behalf of the Ohio Public Defender, Legislative Liaison Niki Clum challenged the notion that a defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial is either inconsequential or arbitrary.
"If a defendant is not brought to trial within the 270-day deadline, they may assert their right to speedy trial has been violated," she told committee members. "If a court finds that a defendant has not been brought to trial prior to the speedy trial deadline, the charge is dismissed with prejudice.
"However, dismissals for a speedy trial violations are extremely rare. When a defendant claims that his or her speedy trial right has been violated, they must show that 270 days have passed and no tolling occurred. Upon meeting this burden, the State then has the ability to respond and explain when there should have been tolling."
According to the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, other states and the federal government either release the defendant if they are being held, dismiss the case without prejudice or allow the judge to dismiss the case with or without prejudice after taking into account factors like the severity of the violation and the seriousness of the charges.
"The bill strikes what we feel is a reasonable middle ground," association President-elect Juergen Waldick said in testimony supporting the bill. "The bill requires a court to release a person from custody if that person has not been brought to trial within the required amount of time.
"It authorizes the defendant to file a time-for-trial motion on the prosecutor within 14 days before a defendant must be brought to trial. ... The bill provides an incentive to the defendant to notify the prosecuting of something that the prosecuting may be unaware of.
No more gamesmanship with the justice system, he concluded.
"Extending the state's ability to bring a case by 14 days is not necessary," Clum responded. "It is not the experience of Ohio Public Defender that a significant number of cases are being dismissed for speedy trial violations."
Previously, the office estimated between 15 and 30 cases dismissed annually for speedy trial violations.
"It is also important to remember that the state has ample time to develop a case prior to charging a defendant," she continued. "The statute of limitations for most felonies in Ohio is six years - with more serious felonies having a 20-year limitation and our most serious offenses having no statute of limitation.
"The state further enjoys months of preparation time after a defendant has been charged before running afoul of a defendant's right to speedy trial."
A third hearing of SB 48 was scheduled at time of publication.
Date Published: April 18, 2019