The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Smith (Decided March 30, 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the Defendant's misconduct can waive his right to a speedy trial.
In Smith, the Defendant was arrested for DWI in Dakota County and found on his person was a small baggie of methamphetamine. The state subsequently charged Mr. Smith with fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, two counts of first-degree impaired driving, driving after revocation, and violation of a restricted driver’s license.
Mr. Smith appeared for a hearing on August 30, 2018 and demanded a speedy trial. During the hearing, Defendant stated that he would not “admit to jurisdiction” of the court and indicated that he filed an “assumed name certificate” and “filed a brief on declaration of sovereignty and immunity nationality status.” The district court noted Defendant's demand for a speedy trial and set a trial date for October 22, 2018.
On the day of trial, Mr. Smith continued to argue that the district court did not have jurisdiction. The judge repeatedly attempted to confirm that he wanted to proceed as a self-represented litigant, but Defendant refused to answer any questions and asserted that he did not recognize the district court’s jurisdiction. The district court judge continued, “I don’t think you quite grasp the gravity of the situation that [is] going on here,” and found appellant in direct contempt of court for repeatedly interrupting the judge and disrupting the courtroom. The district court continued the case until the following day.
The following day, the court attempted to continue the trial and the Defendant accused the judge of treason, threats, duress, and coercion.
The district court ordered evaluations under rule 20.04 which includes a competency evaluation under rule 20.01, and set a review hearing for one week out. Mr. Smith argued that the continuance violated his speedy-trial demand and accused the judge of assault, kidnapping, and “ransom.”
The district court held review hearings on October 30, November 2, and November 9, 2018. Mr. Smith refused to appear at the November 9 hearing. The district court noted during the November 9 hearing that it was aware of appellant’s speedy-trial demand and wanted that demand to be “accommodated and honored.” However, the district court noted that the county was having difficulty completing the competency-evaluation report because Defendant refused to meet with the county evaluator. The county filed the evaluation report with the district court on November 16, stating that appellant was competent to stand trial.
The district court held a review hearing on November 20, 2018. Defendant refused to appear at the hearing. The district court noted that Mr. Smith was competent to stand trial and scheduled a jury trial for January 7, 2019.
Mr. Smith appeared for trial on January 7 and he challenged the district court’s jurisdiction. Defendant also indicated that he did not wish to remain in the courtroom during the trial, and left the room.
After Mr. Smith was convicted by a jury he appealed arguing his right to a speedy trial was violated. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, however, noting:
"In Minnesota, “trial is to commence within 60 days from the date of the demand unless good cause is shown . . . why the defendant should not be brought to trial within that period.” State v. Hahn, 799 N.W.2d 25, 29-30 (Minn. App. 2011); see also Minn. R. Crim. P. 11.09(b) (requiring trial within 60 days of demand “unless the court finds good cause for a later trial date”)."
"Minnesota courts use a four-factor balancing test to determine whether a delay in a case violates the speedy-trial right. State v. Windish, 590 N.W.2d 311,315 (Minn. 1999). “The test provides that a court must consider: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) whether the defendant asserted his or her right to a speedy trial; and (4) whether the delay prejudiced the defendant.” Id. (citing Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S. Ct. 2182 (1972))."
Length of Delay:
"State v. Johnson, 811 N.W.2d 136, 144 (Minn. App. 2012) (“Under Minnesota law, a delay of more than 60 days from the date of the speedy-trial demand is presumptively prejudicial, triggering review of the remaining three factors.”)".
Reason for Delay:
"Under the second factor, “the key question is whether the government or the criminal defendant is more to blame for th[e] delay.” Taylor, 869 N.W.2d at 19 (quotation omitted). Generally, the burden of protecting speedy-trial rights rests on the court system and the prosecutors. Windish, 590 N.W.2d at 317. But “[w]hen the overall delay in bringing a case to trial is the result of the defendant’s actions, there is no speedy trial violation.” Taylor, 869 N.W.2d at 20."
"Here, the delays are largely attributable to appellant. On the scheduled trial date in October 2018, appellant interrupted the district court judge with such frequency that the district court was unable to conduct business. Appellant repeatedly refused to provide his name and challenged the jurisdiction of the district court. On the following day, the district court judge expressed concern over appellant’s “obstreperous and illogical behavior” and questioned “whether or not we need to conduct some sort of examination to determine [appellant’s] competence to proceed in connection with this matter.”
"Based on these concerns, the district court ordered a competency evaluation. Rule 20.01 directs a district court to suspend the proceedings and order an examination of a defendant’s mental condition if the district court has reason to doubt the defendant’s competency. Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 3. A delay caused by competency proceedings is normally justified as necessary to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial. State v. Bauer, 299 N.W.2d 493, 498 (Minn. 1980). Here, the district court’s decision to order a competency evaluation was based on concerns that appellant’s cognitive abilities prevented him from participating in his trial. And if the court finds reason to doubt the defendant’s competence, it “must suspend the criminal proceedings.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 3 (emphasis added); see also Minn. Stat. § 645.44, subd. 15a (2018) (providing that the word “must” is mandatory). The district court acted properly by delaying the trial to ensure that appellant was competent to proceed to trial."
"Appellant’s refusal to appear for scheduled hearings and cooperate with the county evaluator further contributed to the delay. Consequently, we conclude that this factor weighs against appellant’s speedy-trial-violation claim."
Assertion of Right:
"Because it is uncontested that appellant asserted his right to a speedy trial, this factor weighs in his favor."
Prejudice Caused by Delay:
"Prejudice . . . should be assessed in the light of the interests of defendants which the speedy trial right was designed to protect,” namely “(i) to prevent oppressive pretrial incarceration; (ii) to minimize anxiety and concern of the accused; and (iii) to limit the possibility that the defense will be impaired.” Id. at 532, 92 S. Ct. at 2193. “Of these forms of prejudice, the most serious is the last, because the inability of a defendant adequately to prepare his case skews the fairness of the entire system.” Doggett v. United States, 505 U.S. 647, 654, 112 S. Ct. 2686, 2692 (1992) (quotation omitted). Prejudice is “obvious” if a witness dies or disappears during the delay, or if defense witnesses “are unable to recall accurately events of the distant past.” Barker, 407 U.S. at 532, 92 S. Ct. at2193. Prejudice is not present here. Appellant did not call any witnesses at trial, and he does not contend that anyone lost their memories, became unavailable, or forgot important events. The delay did not prejudice appellant’s case. Accordingly, we conclude that this factor does not weigh in appellant’s favor."
Balancing the Factors:
"On balance, we determine that good cause supported delaying the trial. Appellant asserted his right to a speedy trial, which began over 60 days from the date of his demand. However, the record reflects that the delay was largely attributable to appellant, and the delay did not impair appellant’s ability to present a defense. Therefore, based upon our complete review of all the Barker factors, we determine that the record does not establish a violation of appellant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial."
Moral Of The Story: Justice delayed does not necessarily mean justice denied.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and DUI questions.