• Courts of Common Pleas
  • D66313
  • May 15 2014 (Date Decided)

COURTS OF COMMON PLEAS

State of Delaware v. Minter, DeFAX Case No. D66313 (C.P. New Castle County, May 15, 2014) Danberg, J. (8 pages).

Defendant's right to speedy trial was denied with respect to 2005 motor vehicle charges but was not denied with respect to 2010 assault charge. Motion to dismiss as to 2005 charges granted, motion to dismiss as to 2010 charge denied.

In April 2005 defendant Walter Minter was charged in the Justice of the Peace Court with driving without a valid license and several other motor vehicle charges. A few days before the scheduled court date in May, defendant presented to the court a jurisdictional form indicating he wished to be tried before the court of common pleas. As a result of clerical error, the Justice of the Peace Court failed to transfer the case to the court of common pleas until almost five years later, in March 2010. Defendant signed an order acknowledging a scheduled arraignment date in August. The matter was continued until Dec. 20, 2010. Defendant did not appear at the arraignment. A capias was issued.

In July 2010, defendant was arrested for assault. He was arraigned on Sept. 10, 2010. He pleaded not guilty. A non-jury trial was scheduled for Nov. 29, 2010. He did not appear. A capias was issued.

Defendant moved to dismiss both the motor vehicle charges and the assault charge, alleging violations of his speedy trial rights.

The court of common pleas granted the motion to dismiss the motor vehicle charges. The extensive delay between the 2005 arrest date and the scheduled appearance in 2010 weighed in appellant's favor. The fact that the delay resulted from an error in the Justice of the Peace Court weighed in appellant's favor. Notwithstanding that appellant offered no evidence he asserted his speedy trial rights prior to filing his motion, the fact that he requested a transfer to the court of common pleas weighed in his favor. Finally the prejudice factor weighed in appellant's favor: although he did not suffer extensive pretrial incarceration, he was presumptively prejudiced by the anxiety of waiting for trial, and the time lapse might have caused him prejudice in his ability to put forth a proper defense.

The court denied the motion to dismiss the 2010 assault charge. The delay factor weighed in the state's favor, because appellant was scheduled for trial within 180 days of the arrest. As to the reason for the delay, appellant failed to appear from 2010 to 2014, and after he was incarcerated in 2012, he made no attempt to bring the matter to trial. Thus his actions causes the delay, and this factor weighed in the state's favor.

The third factor, exercise of the right or active participation in handling the case, also weighed in the state's favor, because he did not show that he made any effort, apart from his motion to dismiss, to assert his right to a speedy trial. The prejudice factor weighed in appellant's favor; it was likely that the memories of witnesses and officers had faded in the four years following the originally scheduled trial date. But on balance, the factors weighed against appellant.

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