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Speedy Trial in the District Court of Maryland – Discussion by Baltimore Maryland Attorney

An Aggressive Maryland Criminal Attorney will always review all criminal cases for Constitutional Violations such as Speedy Trial, Illegal Search and Seizure, Illegal Confessions in violation of a person’s Miranda Rights and, Illegal Traffic Stops. I have a case scheduled for next week in the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City at the North Avenue location that involves a significant Speedy Trial issue that I believe will result in the dismissal of all charges.

The client allegedly had a domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend at the time, way back in March of 2006. The ex-girlfriend went to the court commissioner and swore out a warrant against him alleging that he had assaulted her in the second degree and repeatedly harassed her and committed telephone misuse by repeatedly calling her with the intent to harass her. The warrant was issued that day but there was apparently never any attempt to serve this warrant on my client until April of this year, over two years after the warrant was issued. This obviously puts the issue of Speedy Trial in play. Speedy Trial is an issue that comes up often in serious felony cases in the Circuit Court, particularly in Baltimore City. In felony cases that are charged in Circuit Court, either by way of indictment or criminal information, Speedy Trial commences upon the filing of that formal charge, not when the original warrant is issued. That is because the original warrant in the majority of circuit court cases is issued by way of a District Court charging document, known as a Statement of Charges, a charging document upon which the defendant cannot be tried.

Once the person is picked up on the warrant charging the person with a serious felony, the case will be set in for a preliminary hearing, usually 30 days or so after the warrant is served. During this time the State’s Attorney’s Office will conduct a felony review to determine whether or not they wish to file charges against the person in circuit court by way of a grand jury indictment or the filing of an information after a preliminary hearing is held or waived by the defendant. The State’s Attorney may also choose to reduce the case to a misdemeanor or dismiss it altogether which will usually occur at the preliminary hearing. The Speedy Trial calculation for these types of cases begins upon the filing of the indictment or information by the State’s Attorney. It matters not how long the case is in warrant status without being served. The reason for this as laid out by the Court of Appeals in State v. Gee is that the if a person is charged with a matter where exlusive jurisdiction is vested in the circuit court on a warrant statement of charges (examples include murder, robbery, rape, burglary, sex offenses and other serious felonies), the warrant statement of charges is not a formal charge that would activate the person’s speedy trial right because the person cannot be tried on that document. In order to be tried the State must file and indictment or information in the circuit court and it is the filing of this formal charge that activates the person’s Speedy Trial right.

In misdemeanor cases and other cases where the District Court has exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction however (examples are cds possession, second degree assault, misdemeanor or felony destruction of property, misdemeanor or felony theft, harassment, telephone misuse, stalking, etc.,) the warrant statement of charges is the formal charging document upon which the person may and in fact will be tried. Accordingly, the Speedy Trial clock is activated upon the filing of those charges via the warrant statement of charges. Therefore, in the case that I have next week the Speedy Trial clock began to run way back in April of 2006. To make matters worse for the State and better for my client, my client was on active probation almost the entire period of the delay. He reported monthly to an agent and kept her apprised of his address and place of employment. So the State was on actual notice of his whereabouts yet never served the warrant for two years. Couple this with the fact that a delay of this length is not only considered to be of Constitutional dimensions, but is also presumed to be prejudicial to the defendant and it leads to the conclusion that this case must be dismissed with prejudice due to the State’s failure to prosecute in a timely manner.

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