New York Court Denies Defendant Relief Under Statute Guaranteeing Right to Speedy Trial

We have discussed in past blogs how New York’s speedy trial statute can be effectively used in many criminal cases.  In a recent case coming out of a New York court, the defendant appealed convictions for three misdemeanor counts and three traffic infractions that had arisen in 2014. On appeal, the defendant argued that an amendment to New York’s speedy trial statute should apply retroactively; thus, he was entitled to a dismissal. The court of appeals considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately disagreed, explaining that the statute in question did not apply to the offense for which the defendant was seeking relief.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, approximately eight years ago, the defendant was criminally charged based on traffic violations. 17 months after being charged, the defendant moved to dismiss the charges based on a New York statute that guarantees defendants the right to a speedy trial. The statute includes provisions stating that if a defendant is subject to unreasonable delay because the prosecution is not ready for trial, that defendant can use this statute to argue for a dismissal. At the time of his motion to dismiss, however, the statute did not apply to defendants charged with traffic infractions. Thus, the defendant’s argument was unsuccessful.

In 2019, however, the legislature changed the language of the New York statute, explicitly including defendants charged with traffic infractions as individuals eligible for dismissal because of unreasonable prosecutorial delay. Upon hearing this news, the defendant again brought up this argument, stating that now he was in the class of people that could benefit from the statute. The court of appeals was thus faced with the decision of whether or not the defendant’s case could indeed be dismissed because of the statute.

The Decision

The court looked at one main factor when deciding whether or not to side with the defendant in this case. The legislature amended the language of the statute in 2019, and the defendant was criminally charged in 2014. Thus, said the court, the change in the statute came too late for the defendant to receive any benefit from the updated language.

It is true, said the court, that statutes can sometimes be retroactively applied to defendants who committed crimes prior to the creation of the statute. In this case, however, the legislature did not intend for the statute’s changed language to apply to anyone except those who committed traffic infractions from 2019 onward. Thus, even if the prosecution did unnecessarily delay the defendant’s trial, he was not eligible for relief under the statute because in 2014, the statute did not include defendants charged with traffic infractions in its list of individuals who could successfully petition for a dismissal.

The court concluded that the defendant was ineligible for relief and the original court order was affirmed.

Have You Been Criminally Charged with Traffic Violations in New York?

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in New York, give us a call at Tilem & Associates. We are standing by and ready to provide you with our dedicated representation so that you can ensure your rights are well-protected. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 877-377-8666.



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