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State v. Radler

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

June 24, 2019

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
JASON RADLER, Defendant-Appellee.


          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Maris Veidemanis, Assistant Attorney General Santa Fe, NM for Appellant

          Jason M. Alarid Albuquerque, NM for Appellee



         {¶1} In this refiled concurrent jurisdiction case, Defendant Jason Radler moved to dismiss, alleging a violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Eight months after the charge was originally filed in magistrate court and five months after the charge was dismissed and then refiled in district court, the district court granted Defendant's motion. The State appealed. We reverse.


         {¶2} The State charged Defendant in magistrate court with aggravated driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor, in violation of NMSA 1978, Section 66-8-102(D)(1) (2010, amended 2016). After spending three days in jail, Defendant was arraigned on March 28, 2016, and released on bond. On April 11, counsel for Defendant entered an appearance and made a pro forma demand for speedy trial. On June 27, the State dismissed the magistrate court case and refiled the charge in district court. The district court set trial for December 19.

         {¶3} On November 4, Defendant moved to dismiss. He contended that, because his trial had not commenced before the expiration of the 182-day period that would have governed his case in magistrate court, his right to a speedy trial had been violated and Rule 5-604(B) NMRA (the rule governing the commencement of trials in refiled concurrent jurisdiction cases) contemplated dismissal. The State responded by observing that Rule 5-604(B) sets out familiar factors from our speedy trial case law-i.e., the length of delay, the reasons for delay, the defendant's assertion of the right, and the prejudice to the defendant from the delay. See State v. Garza, 2009-NMSC-038, ¶ 13, 146 N.M. 499, 212 P.3d 387. With respect to the length of delay, the State noted our Supreme Court in Garza had adopted "one year as a benchmark for determining when a simple case may become presumptively prejudicial." Id. ¶ 48. The State contended that benchmark constitutes a kind of threshold, and if a defendant cannot establish a delay exceeding the benchmark, the district court need not even consider the other factors set forth in the case law and the rule. Defendant's case had been pending just eight months since the original filing in magistrate court, and the State thus argued his motion should be denied for failure to establish delay exceeding the Garza benchmark.

         {¶4} The district court heard argument on Defendant's motion in November 2016. Defendant presented testimony at the hearing, without objection from the State, regarding potential prejudice he had suffered. Defendant explained he had been "offered an opportunity to apply to the academy at Los Alamos County Fire Department" (the Department), but he did not apply because of his pending case. He noted the application window had recently closed, and thus he had missed the opportunity. The State did not cross-examine Defendant.

         {¶5} The district court observed the delay was "not excessive," but concluded it nonetheless weighed against the State because it extended beyond the period that would have governed in magistrate court. The court added that the State's reasons for dismissing and refiling the case were permissible, and thus the reason for delay factor weighed in the State's favor. Finally, the court observed Defendant had introduced evidence of prejudice, which the State had not countered, and thus the prejudice factor weighed against the State. The district court concluded Defendant's trial had been impermissibly delayed and granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. After a motion for reconsideration and additional argument, the court entered an order dismissing Defendant's charge, finding "the [m]agistrate [c]ourt trial should have been commenced [80 days before the scheduled district court trial and that] Defendant suffered actual prejudice[, ]" and concluding the speedy trial factors weighed in favor of Defendant.


         {¶6} The State reiterates on appeal that the district court erred in even considering Defendant's motion, maintaining the speedy trial factors are only to be weighed once a defendant has established delay exceeding Garza's twelve-month benchmark. Alternatively, the State contends a proper weighing of the factors compels reversal. Defendant responds that Rule 5-604 contemplates consideration of a claimed speedy trial violation even before a case has been pending twelve months. He adds that he established actual prejudice, obviating any need to cross the presumptively prejudicial benchmark described in Garza. He further contends the district court correctly weighed the speedy trial factors and properly dismissed the case. Prior to addressing the parties' arguments, we briefly examine the applicable law relating to speedy trial and Rule 5-604.

         I. Applicable Law

         A. Speedy Trial

         {¶7} In determining whether a defendant has been deprived of the right to a speedy trial, we analyze the four-factor balancing test set out by the United States Supreme Court in Barker v. Wingo,407 U.S. 514, 530 (1972): "(1) the length of delay in bringing the case to trial, (2) the reasons for the delay, (3) the defendant's assertion of the right to a speedy trial, and (4) the prejudice to the defendant caused by the delay." State v. Serros,2016-NMSC-008, ¶ 5, 366 P.3d 1121. Our Supreme Court in Garza established new guidelines as to when, generally, delays should be characterized as presumptively prejudicial and require scrutiny of the Barker factors. Garza,2009-NMSC-038, ¶¶ 47-48 (adopting guidelines of twelve months for simple cases, fifteen months for cases of intermediate complexity, and eighteen months for complex cases). At the same time, the Garza Court was careful to note the new guidelines are to be treated as merely guidelines, not rules, and "will not preclude [a] defendant from bringing a motion for a speedy trial violation though the delay may be less than ...

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