Two New York DWI cases were dismissed in back to back victories, in the same Court on the same day, yesterday. The unusual drama played out in a New York County Criminal Court courtroom, last week as the Judge dismissed DWI charges against two separate defendants. Both dismissals were based upon violations of the defendants’ speedy trial rights, although under two different theories and under two different sections of the New York Criminal Procedure Law. In addition, the two DWI’s were very different. One DWI was a refusal, charged as a “common law” DWI under sec 1192(3) of the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law. The second DWI, was based upon a very high breath test, (.159) and was charged under VTL 1192 (2) and 1192 (3). Both were in very different procedural stages.
The first DWI charge to be dismissed, yesterday, was the DWI based upon a refusal to take a breath test. That dismissal was based upon a violation by the prosecutor of the defendant’s statutory speedy trial right codified under section 30.30 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law and which requires the prosecutors to be ready for trial within 90 days of the arraignment. (How that 90 days is calculated is the subject of other blogs on this site and is beyond the scope of this blog.) However, under the current state of the law (and there is a case up on appeal right now to clarify this issue) when a Driving While Intoxicated under VTL 1192 (2) or (3) is charged on the same docket as the traffic infraction of Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol under VTL 1192 (1) and the Driving While Intoxicated is dismissed for violation of statutory speedy trial rights, the Court cannot dismiss the lesser charge of Driving While Ability Impaired. Therefore, while the more serious DWI charge was dismissed, the defendant in that case is still charged with the lesser traffic infraction of DWAI.
The second DWI case to be dismissed yesterday was the case involving the very high breath reading of .159 (almost twice the legal limit of .08). The second case is about six months older than the first case. In this case, the DWI, the more serious charge, was dismissed approximately six months ago for violation of the defendant’s statutory speedy trial rights, leaving only the traffic infraction of Driving While Ability Impaired. After six months of the prosecutors not being ready for trial and making several motions to dismiss the remaining charge for violation of constitutional speedy trial rights (as opposed to statutory speedy trial rights), the Judge dismissed the sole remaining charge of Driving While Ability Impaired.
The difference between statutory and constitutional speedy trial rights is again, well beyond the scope of this blog. However, experienced criminal defense lawyers should constantly be aware of the speedy trial clock and do their best to use speedy trial as a potential defense in DWI and other criminal cases.