Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bellante v. Superior Court: Burden of Delay Shifts to the Prosecution

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of Kern County held that Matthew Bellante, who was cited for drunk driving in July of 2008 but never received notice to appear, had the better argument in a rare instance against the People.

Bellante was cited for drunk driving July 11, 2008, after which a complaint was filed on the 28th and a warrant issued August 6th. Bellante's address was verified on his driver's license at the time of the citation and in DMV records. Bellante was not served but learned of the warrant through the DMV and turned himself in.

Over a year later, December 17, 2009, Bellante moved to dismiss his case for lack of a speedy trial, arguing that he had resided at his given address openly and continuously since 2003, in the time since his citation no effort was made to serve him with the warrant and that he had not failed to appear. Bellante cited Serna v. Superior Court (1985) 40 Cal.3d 239 (Serna), which established that the delay of over one year from the filing of the complaint in this misdemeanor case results in presumptive prejudice. Additionally, the California Supreme Court recently cited Serna and stated that Barker is the final step in a three-tiered approach that first requires the defense to demonstrate prejudice from a delay of trial followed by the prosecution, and finally "the trial court must balance the prejudice to the defendant resulting from the delay against the prosecution's justification for the delay" [(Barker v. Wingo (1972) 407 U.S. 514 (Barker); (People v. Lowe (2007) 40 Cal.4th 937, 942)].

The Court decided that this complaint triggered application of the weighing process outlined in Barker, which made it the duty of the People to show justification for the delay of trial and that they exercised reasonable diligence in bringing Bellante to trial. A writ of mandate was issued in favor of Bellante directing the trial court to vacate its order denying dismissal of the case and enter a new order of dismissal.

This case is: Bellante v. Superior Court S-1500-AP-721.