COA: Unreturned warrant doesn’t justify trial delay

June 22, 2016

A man’s criminal charges will be dismissed after Indiana Court of Appeals found the fact that a warrant for his arrest was not returned to trial court didn’t mean the court was absolved of its responsibility to grant him the speedy trial he asked for.

Ricky Arion was being held in the Miami Correctional Facility for unrelated charges when the new charges of burglary, sexual battery and criminal confinement were brought in Carroll County Sept. 5, 2013. For some reason, the warrant served to Arion was never returned to the trial court. A few days later, Arion filed a motion for a speedy trial under Indiana Criminal Rule 4(B).  Ninety-four days later, Arion filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him, but this was denied by the trial court, which ruled that because the warrant was never returned, Arion was not being held on those charges and Rule 4 did not apply.

Arion filed a motion to reconsider claiming it was not his duty to ensure that the warrant is returned to the court. The trial court denied it. Then over a year passed in which the state made no attempt to try Arion. Finally, an initial hearing was held May 22, 2015, after Arion sent a letter to the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department with a copy of his arrest warrant. Arion again filed a motion for discharge on July 10 but it was again denied because the court still had not received a return of the warrant.

The trial court found it was not aware of the arrest until March 26, 2015, and that it still hadn’t seen a copy of the warrant attached to Arion’s earlier motion. It also held Arion was not prejudiced by the delay, leading to Arion filing this interlocutory appeal.

The state claimed that the clock on Arion’s Rule 4 motion didn’t start ticking until it became aware of his arrest, or the warrant was returned. The COA disagreed in a decision written by Judge John Baker, who wrote, “The State’s proposed actual knowledge requirement would remove its burden entirely so long as it failed to inform the trial court of a defendant’s arrest. But failing to inform the trial court of a defendant’s arrest is error, and the State’s attempt to use this error as justification for the delay would preclude Arion from availing himself of the protections of Rule 4 through no fault of his own.”

Baker also wrote that the trial court could have found out about Arion’s arrest because Arion himself made multiple efforts to bring the arrest to the court’s attention. When the trial court received Arion’s 4(B) motion, it should have known Arion was being held on the new charges.

Baker wrote that the court understood the reluctance to dismiss Arion’s charges, but “speedy trials serve not only the interests of criminal defendants, but the interests of the whole of society.”

“The State has provided us with no practical justification for the delay here, and all evidence indicates that it could have brought Arion to trial in a timely fashion had it chosen to,” Baker wrote.

The case is Ricky E. Arion v. State of Indiana, 08A02-1508-CR-1278.



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