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NEW YORK SPEEDY TRIAL – Part 2 – Trial Readiness not necessarily Trial

As we noted in our previous blog if you are charged with any crime in New York, other than a homicide, or any penal law non-criminal offense you are entitled to a speedy trial under New York Criminal Procedure Law sec 30.30. However, the statute is really misnamed a “speedy trial” statute because it has very little to do with speedy trial but rather has everything to do with “speedy readiness.” In other words NY CPL 30.30 does not require that the trial start within the specified period but only that the People (the prosecutor) announce their readiness for trial within the speedy trial period. This reality sets up a game, all too common in some counties where the People announce their readiness only when the case cannot possible go to trial and are not ready when the case is in Court and the matter is ready to be tried. See for example the “Bus Matron case” which was handled by this office and was dismissed after the Kings County District Attorney’s Office attempted to play this game. To satisfy the Criminal Procedure Law the prosecutor only need state his readiness for trial. This can be done in several ways.

People’s Communication of Readiness – Open Court Statement or Statement of Readiness in Writing:
For the People to be “ready” for trial in accordance with CPL 30.30, there “must be a communication of readiness” by the prosecutor which is made on the record in the trial Court. People v. Kendzia, 64 N.Y.2d 331, 337 (1985).

The People can accomplish this by “either a statement of readiness by the prosecutor in open court” which needs to be transcribed by a Court stenographer, or recorded by electronic means by the clerk or a “written notice of readiness sent by the prosecutor to both defense counsel and the appropriate court clerk” which is placed in the Court files. Id.

The People must strictly comply with the procedures outlined above or a case can be dismissed. For example, a written notice of readiness must indicate present readiness. A written statement that the People are ready for trial “subject to the court setting a date certain for trial in order to notify our witnesses” did not indicate a present readiness. People v. Fields, 214 A.D.2d 332 (1st Dept. 1995).

A statement that expresses a mere expectation to be ready is insufficient. People v Kendzia, 64 NY2d 331, 338 (1985)(the People’s statement, in a May 6th letter, that they would be ready for trial on May 26th was found insufficient because it merely expressed an expectation of readiness).

“The statute contemplates an announcement of present readiness, not a prediction or expectation of future readiness.” People v Scott, 2010 NY Slip Op 51689U, 29 Misc. 3d 1204A (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 2010).

The statement must be made by the prosecutor not someone on behalf of the prosecutor. In People v Jacobs, 28 Misc. 3d 499, 905 N.Y.S.2d 468 (N.Y. Dist. Ct. 2010) the First District Court of Nassau County rejected the People’s argument that an affirmative representation by the judge of the People’s readiness in open court satisfied the People’s obligation to declare their readiness for trial.

Faxed Statement of Readiness Sufficient: Where People don’t announce readiness in court, facsimile transmission of the People’s written notice of readiness satisfies the requirement that a written notice of readiness be sent by the prosecutor to defense counsel after filing of the same with the court.

A statement of readiness served on defendant’s prior attorney instead of current attorney is ineffective. People v. Williams, 21 Misc. 3d 1118A (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 2008)(People conceded adjournment charged to them because they mailed statement of readiness to wrong attorney).

As you can see, the issues surrounding speedy trial dismissals in New York are complicated. Anyone who believes that they or a loved one have been denied a speedy trial should contact a criminal defense attorney familiar with New York speedy trial Law.