We often speak with clients and potential clients that have outstanding warrants and are not sure what to do. If a warrant has been outstanding for more than a year and the police have made no effort to serve the warrant or find the person that is subject to the warrant, there may be a constitutional problem.
This issue arose in the recent case State v. Brown, Oberlin Mun. Ct No. 14CRB00024. In this case, the Defendant’s case was dismissed after police issued an arrest warrant on a domestic violence charge and then 22 months passed before he was actually arrested. During this time, he was never served with the warrant and police made no effort to find him.
Defendant Arrested 22 Months After Warrant Issued; Police Made No Effort to Locate Him During this Time
In this case, an arrest warrant was issued against Defendant after failing to appear at the local Police Department following a domestic violence allegation made against him by his girlfriend. The warrant was issued in January 2014, and since that date Defendant has lived at two addresses within twenty minutes of the Police Department.
After the warrant was issued, the Police Department entered the warrant into LEADS, but made no efforts to confirm Defendant’s address, nor were any other efforts made to serve the warrant to Defendant.
On November 4, 2015, Defendant was arrested for his outstanding warrant following a stop for a minor traffic offense. Within this timeframe, Defendant has moved in with his girlfriend (alleged victim) and they now have a child together.
The Defendant argues that his right to speedy trial was violated by not serving his charges in a timely manner and moves to dismiss the case. Since Defendant waived his right to a speedy trial and the charges are still within the statute of limitations, the question in this case was whether the 22 month delay between the issue of the warrant and Defendant’s arrest violated his right to a speedy trial.
Does a 22 Month Delay Between Issuing Warrant and Making Arrest Violate Constitutional Speedy Trial Rights?
Since the court was examining a constitutional claim on speedy trial grounds, they used a balancing test set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Barker v. Wingo. The four elements of the test include:
- The length of the delay
- The reason for the delay
- The defendant’s assertion of his right to a speedy trial
- The prejudice to the defendant
The court may only employ this balancing test if the length of delay shows a need to ask further into the other factor. Though when balancing, the court must consider all of the elements together, and no certain element is decisive in a case.
Using the Barker v. Wingo factors, the court in this case made the following conclusions:
- Any delay nearing one year is considered against the State. In this case, the delay of 22 months requires a full analysis into the delay.
- The State claims the reason for the delay is due to hundreds of outstanding warrants in the city. However, this was unsupported by the record and the state admitted to not trying to locate the Defendant. This favors the defendant.
- Upon receiving counsel, the Defendant asserted his right. This supports the defendant.
- The court found that the delay has prejudiced the Defendant, the alleged victim, and the state. The Defendant will have to face charges while residing with the victim and their child. The victim will now be subject to testify against the man she has lived with for 18 months and with whom she has a child. The State will have a difficult time making a case due to the length of delay.
Based on these reasons, the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss was granted on speedy trial grounds.