Sunday, March 30, 2008

Memo to Prosecutors: Watch That Calendar or Get A Signed Waiver

State v. Abrahamson, no. 05-1653 (Iowa March 21, 2008).

Abrahamson was convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine and sentenced to an indeterminate term of 25 years in a fine state institution. He was charged by trial information April 30, 2004 with conspiracy. On July 28, the court found good cause to delay the trial until August 25 because Abrahamson had been in voluntary drug treatment. On August 13, the state dismissed the trial information in the interests of justice but no fact finding was made. The state filed a two count trial information the same day charging Abrahamson with conspiracy and manufacturing based on the same facts.

Abrahamson moved to dismiss second the trial information based on his speedy trial right, which was overruled in part. He appealed, and the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed. This appeal by the state followed.

The Court inquired whether dismissal of a trial information is in the furtherance of justice or because of a speedy trial problem. If it's the latter, it's got to be something other than the same offense as the original trial information.

It found that to obtain a dismissal in the interests of justice, the state must provide appropriate and sufficient reasons for the dismissal. A dismissal for failure to provide a speedy trial, on the other hand, is an absolute dismissal with prejudice.

As to the underlying issue of whether manufacturing and conspiracy charges that arise from the same underlying offense are "one offense" for purposes of speedy trial analysis, the Court answered in the affirmative.

One might ask why I've included this case here. It's simple.

Back when I was prosecuting, I had to dismiss a second offense DUI case against a celebrated local adherent of Bacchus because I had misunderstood the strictures of the speedy trial rule. I truly think I would rather have run naked around the courthouse three times at high noon carring a pig over my head than endure the tongue lashing I got from my boss and the arresting officers, had I been given the choice. It was a hard lesson, but one I never have forgotten.

On the other hand, dopers and drunks being what they are, there's no doubt that the state will get another bite at the apple in both cases in the not too distant future, but they'll just have to do it the right way instead of dealing from the bottom of the deck.


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