Tuesday, June 4, 2002
Court of Appeal Takes Strict Stance on ‘Last Day’ for Speedy Trial
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
A dearth of judges in the Lancaster Courthouse the day before Christmas last year, coupled with the scarcity of jurors the day after, meant freedom for a drunk driving defendant whose stipulated “last day” fell during the holiday rush, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Overturning a ruling by the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Appellate Department, the court ruled that a defendant may agree to move back the final day of the10-day grace period for beginning a trial without waiving his speedy trial rights and resetting the 10-day period from the beginning.
The ruling means Armando Bailon Jr., whose last day fell on Christmas Eve but who agreed to extend it to Dec. 26, cannot be retried. Bailon agreed to move back his trial when he was told there were no judges for his case on Christmas Eve, which fell on a Monday last year and was turned by many court workers into a four-day holiday weekend. As it turned out, there were not enough potential jurors in court to fill the box on Wednesday.
The crux of the appeal was the effect of Bailon’s agreeing to put off his 10th day.
Penal Code Sec. 1382 codifies defendants’ constitutional speedy trial rights and, for misdemeanor defendants not in custody, like Bailon, requires that trial begin within 45 days after the arraignment or the plea, whichever is later. Prosecutors are granted a 10-day grace period, but any defendant whose trial does not begin by day 10 of that period cannot be tried at all.
An exception applies when the defendant agrees to a trial date beyond the 45-day period, and a new 10-day period runs from that agreed-upon date. Continuances also may be granted for “good cause.”
On Dec. 26, Judge David Mintz explained to the defendant that there was some sort of miscommunication between the courtroom clerk and the jury room, and the requested 40-member panel was not present for jury selection. Deputy District Attorney Richard Quinones requested a good cause continuance, but Deputy Public Defender Kenneth W. Jones moved for dismissal under Sec. 1382.
Mintz found good cause for a continuance, and the Appellate Division ruled that the parties may not stipulate to a new “last day”—that, in effect, Bailon consented to a new trial date of Dec. 26, triggering a new 10-day period. The question of whether the absence of jurors constituted good cause was not reached.
In an opinion by Justice Fred Woods of Div. Seven, the Court of Appeal ruled that Bailon could—and did—stipulate to a new 10th day without resetting the entire 10-day grace period.
“Suffice it to say that it is clear the trial court obtained Bailon’s waiver of his speedy trial rights subject to the qualification that December 26 would be the last day on which he could be tried, and, as they concede, the People stood ‘mute’…,” Woods said.
Deputy Public Defender John Hamilton Scott praised the ruling, saying stipulating to a 10th day is a “common practice” among defense lawyers and prosecutors.
Deputy District Attorney Brent Ferreira said the law provides for the 10-day grace period specifically to prevent dismissals in situations such as Bailon’s.
Ferreira said he expected his office would seek Supreme Court review “mainly to get this issue settled—can the 10 days be waived, or not.”
The case is Bailon v. Superior Court, People RPI, B156079.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company