My client, a young lady with a terrible record and a rocky past, was arrested for drunk driving and driving without a license over 6 years ago. The facts were really tough: horrible driving, high blood alcohol level over .17, and multiple prior offenses for driving while suspended and other charges.
The police failed to submit the charges to the prosecutor's office for over 4 years. Once these charges were submitted, the prosecutor's office authorized the charges, but the court attempted to serve my client with a notice to appear at an old address. Neither the police nor the prosecutor's office attempted to notify my client of the pending arrest warrant.
My client was in additional trouble in other courts. Suffice to say that she entered a court program that helped her turn her life around, and she was sober for a year and a half before she found out about these charges.
Just shy of the 6 year statute of limitations, I filed a motion to dismiss based upon the substantial delays prior to brining the charges and the additional delays in notifying my client of the pending charges.
The criminally accused has a constitutional right to a speedy trial, and undue delays result in a violation a person’s 6th Amendment rights and violates the Due Process clause of the Constitution. US Const, Am VI; see also Const 1963, art 1, § 20 (“In every criminal prosecution, the accused shall have the right to a speedy and public trial . . . .”). In Doggett v United States, 505 US 647; 112 S Ct 2686; 120 L Ed 2d 520 (1992), the Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment is triggered by an official accusation,” which includes indictments for which an arrest has not been made. The police and prosecutor have an obligation to diligently seek to arrest those who have been indicted according to the US Supreme Court.
I filed a motion with the local court and argued that the government violated its duty to prosecute by failing to inform my client of the pending case.
There is no right to be arrested, but fairness and due process prohibit inordinate delays in the bringing and prosecuting criminal charges, even if the the applicable statute of limitations has not expired, United States v Marion, 404 US 307; 92 S Ct 455; 30 L Ed 2d 468 (1971); United States v Lovasco, 431 US 783; 97 S Ct 2044; 52 L 23 Ed 2d 752 (1977); People v Hernandez, 15 Mich App 141 (1968); People v Nuss, supra; and People v Norma White, 38 Mich App 651 (1972). See also People v Hanson, 178 Mich App 507, 510 (1989). See also, People v Bisard, 114 Mich App 784 (1982); and People v Adams, 232 Mich App 128 (1998), lv den 461 Mich 909 (1999), cert den 531 US 811; 121 S Ct 32; 148 L Ed 2d 13 (2000).
Three things must be done to satisfactorily commence a prosecution according to People v Clement, 72 Mich 116 (1888), and People v Clark, 33 Mich 112 (1876):
- There must be a complaint on oath,
- A warrant must be issued on the complaint, and
- The warrant must be placed in the hands of an officer for service.
The complaint and warrant in this case were issued after a four year delay, but the police and prosecutor failed to act further upon the warrant. Although the court attempted to notify my client, the police and prosecutor's office could not show any effort to notify my client of the pending warrant. Had the warrant been provided to an officer for service, due process would have demanded that the police act upon that warrant. The government could not make this showing. It appears that the warrant just sat around for almost 2 years until my client tried to get her license reinstated. When she found out about the charges, she immediately hired me.
Based upon my arguments, the judge dismissed the case.
This case was really the right call by a very brave district court judge. My client was sober for exactly two years on the date that these charges were dismissed. This ruling allows her to move on with her life, and I know that she has a bright future ahead of her.