Florida Supreme Court – Criminal Headnotes – October 16, 2018

  • Oct 17 2018


Review of a decision of the 4th District appeals court for conflict with decisions of three other districts.

In November 2014, the defendant was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery for attempting to prevent a neighbor from reporting a noise complaint. Months later, but still within the 175 day speedy trial window, the State filed an information charging felony witness tampering and misdemeanor battery in connection with the November 2014 incident. A warrant was issued but never served or attempted to be served. Eventually the State dismissed the original misdemeanor battery charge, the defendant’s bond was discharged, and the file was “sealed.”

More than a year after the incident, the Defendant first learned of the felony information, which was still pending. Rather than filing a notice of expiration of the speedy trial period under Rule 3.191(p), he filed a motion to discharge, arguing that the state should not be allowed a fifteen-day “recapture” period, as it had made no effort to notify him of the charges within the “speedy trial” period. The trial court granted the motion, and the State appealed.

The 4th District Court of Appeal reversed, saying the defendant’s remedy would have been to file a notice of expiration under Rule 3.191(p). In support of its decision, the 4th District cited State v. Naveira, 873 So. 2d 300 (Fla. 2004), in which the Florida supreme court ruled that the state was entitled to the “recapture” period where it charged the defendant on the last day under the “speedy trial” rule, despite the fact that this placed the defendant in the position of having to request a continuance beyond the “recapture” period in order to prepare for trial.

The appeals court receded from several of its own prior decisions, on which the trial court had relied, requiring that a defendant be notified of pending charges prior to the expiration of the “speedy trial” period, and aligned itself with the decision of the 5th District Court of Appeal in State v. Jimenez, 44 So. 3d 1230 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010), while noting conflict with decisions of all three of the other districts in Puzio v. State, 969 So. 2d 1197 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007); State v. Drake, 209 So. 3d 650 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017); State v. McCullers, 932 So. 2d 373 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006); Cordero v. State, 686 So. 2d 737 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997); and State v. Gantt, 688 So. 2d 1012 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997). The appeals court certified this conflict to the state supreme court.

In an opinion authored by Justice Polston, a five-member majority of the supreme court quashed the appeals court’s decision and disapproved the decision of the 5th District in Jiminez. Without reaching the underlying Sixth Amendment issues, the majority noted that Rule 3.191(o) expressly forbids the state to circumvent the “speedy trial” rule by entering a nolle prosequi on one charge while holding another, related charge open. The majority cited State v. Agee, 622 So. 2d 473, 475 (Fla. 1993), in which the court had ruled the state could not enter a nol pros and then refile charges outside the “speedy trial” period, and Genden v. Fuller, 648 So. 2d 1183 (Fla. 1994), in which the court had ruled the state could not terminate a prosecution without filing formal charges and then file outside the “speedy trial” period. To allow the state a “recapture” period in the present circumstances, the majority said, would be to eviscerate the rule.

Justice Lawson filed a lengthy dissent, in which Justice Canady concurred, arguing that Rule 3.191(p) provides an exclusive remedy, the filing of a notice of expiration, where the state has not timely moved forward with a prosecution. The remedy is to force the state to go to trial immediately, unless the trial court finds that one of the exceptions under Rule 3.191(j) applies. The rule affords the defendant a “speedy trial,” said Justice Lawson, not a “speedy discharge.”

The majority opinion, argued the dissenters, makes the “speedy trial” rule substantive rather than procedural, and has the effect of shortening statutes of limitation – an unconstitutional infringement of the legislative function.

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