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June 6, 2006

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument tomorrow in the case of State v. Azbell, and the ensuing decision should clear up some confusion about the speedy trial statute.  In Azbell, the defendant had been arrested at a pharmacy in May of 2003 trying to buy drugs with a phony prescription.  Although she was booked and fingerprinted at that time, no charges were filed.  In January of 2004 she was indicted, and wasn't served with the indictment until April.  The 6th District held that since the speedy trial time runs from the time of arrest, the time for trial ran from her arrest in May, and thus had expired.

If the Supreme Court affirms,


that could have ramifications in the 8th District, because our court has consistently held that speedy trial time does not run unless the person is actually charged with the crime.  (In State v. Fallat, for example, they reached that result despite the fact that the defendant had been in jail for three days before being released.)  I wouldn't get your hopes up, though; I think a reversal by the Supreme Court is likely.

A similar fate probably awaits the 3rd District decision in State v. Cress, also on the docket for argument on Wednesday.  (Bensing's Rule on handicapping Supreme Court decisions:  take the State and give the points.)  The defendant in that case had been arrested for domestic violence against his girlfriend, and subsequently called and told her that he'd tell the police about her drug usage if she didn't drop the charges.  He was then charged with intimidation, which requires the defendant make "an unlawful threat of harm."  The court held that this meant the threat must be illegal in itself, and since the defendant had the legal right to tell the police about his girlfriend's drug usage, the evidence was insufficient to convict.

Finally, a moment's thought for those who landed on the beaches of Normandy fifty-two years ago today, in the last "good war."  As the song says, times were so much simpler then...

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