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COA: State didn't bring man to trial within 1 year

March 22, 2010

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a defendant's motion for discharge under Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C), finding the state failed to bring him to trial within one year.

In Delmar Caldwell v. State of Indiana, No. 75A03-0908-CR-393, Delmar Caldwell appealed the denial of his motion to discharge after the trial court found the one-year period to bring him to trial for an alleged drunk driving offense in July 2007 hadn't begun to run until he was ordered to appear by summons for his initial hearing in February 2009.

Caldwell was arrested July 4, 2007, and charges were filed July 10, 2007. A warrant for his arrest and subsequent summons to be issued for Caldwell's appearance were prepared by the clerk of the court, but never delivered to the sheriff for service. Caldwell only learned of the Feb. 13, 2009, initial hearing on his case from a friend who saw his name on the court docket. Caldwell appeared and pleaded not guilty. His trial was set for April 29, 2009.

Under Criminal Rule 4(C), the state had to bring Caldwell to trial by July 10, 2008; the state argues the later of the triggering dates under the rule was his appearance at the Feb. 13 hearing. The state based its opinion on State ex rel. Penn v. Criminal Court of Marion County, Division III, 270 Ind. 687, 389 N.E.2d 21 (1979), in which the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the denial of a defendant's motion for discharge. In Penn, the defendant was arrested after the filing of charges.

But the Court of Appeals instead followed the holdings of Holt v. State, 262 Ind. 334, 316 N.E.2d 362 (1974), and Maxey v. State, 265 Ind. 244, 353 N.E.2d, 457 (1976). In those cases, just as in Caldwell's case, the defendants were arrested before the filing of indictments against them, so the filing of the charges were the start of the one-year period to bring them to trial.

A voluntary appearance at an initial hearing isn't a triggering event under Criminal Rule 4(C). The appellate court also rejected the state's argument that Caldwell's appearance at the hearing was the first time he was under authority of the court.

"Finally, under the State's argument, the State's delay in effecting a second arrest subsequent to the filing of the formal charges would extend the commencement of the one-year period indefinitely and would undermine the very purpose that Crim.R. 4(C) was designed to accomplish - the constitutional guaranty of a speedy trial," wrote Judge James Kirsch.

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