Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.
In a criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut considered a defendant’s pre-trial motion to dismiss charges against her due to “unreasonable delay” in prosecutorial efforts.
This case arose from an incident that occurred on November 29, 2006, in New Haven, CT. The defendant was involved in an automobile collision with a city bus, resulting in her month-long hospitalization before she returned to her residence, which she occupied prior to and after the accident. A detective prepared an arrest warrant, which was signed on December 14, 2006, but made only one attempt to serve it on the defendant, which was unsuccessful. Approximately fifteen months of inaction passed before the defendant “turned herself in,” indicating she became award of the arrest warrant.
The defendant was charged with second-degree assault with a motor vehicle (Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) § 53a-60d), operating under the influence (CGS § 14-227a), and evading responsibility (CGS § 14-224(b)). She filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that warrant was not served within a reasonable time and beyond the statute of limitations. She further claimed that the pre-arrest delay violated her constitutionally protected due process rights. In support of her motion, the defendant did not present any evidence of “the impact, if any, the fifteen-month delay had on the defendant’s ability to present a defense.”
What Constitutes an Unreasonable Delay?
Under CGS § 54-193(b), our statute of limitations law, the State can prosecute an individual for a crime resulting in a sentence in excess of one year within five years after the date of the offense. However, “the warrant must still be executed without unreasonable delay to preserve the primary purpose of the statute of limitations.” Where a defendant asserts due process violations stemming from pre-arrest delays, he or she must prove “both that (1) actual substantial prejudice resulted from the delay and (2) that the reasons for the delay were wholly unjustifiable, as where the state seeks to gain a tactical advantage.”
There is no per se rule regarding whether the length of a delay is unreasonable. In State v. Crawford, a decision rendered by Connecticut’s Supreme Court, the arrest warrant was not executed for more than two years after it was issued, yet this did not warrant a dismissal of the charges.
In this case, the Superior Court found that the fifteen-month delay was not per se unreasonable, in large part referencing the longer and unexplained, yet permissible delay in Crawford. Even if the delay due to a lack of due diligence was found unreasonable, “[t]he evidence presented to this court did not demonstrate that the defendant has suffered any disadvantage.” The defendant did not provide any evidence of prejudice beyond “mere allegations,” and there was “no evidence in the record to support a claim that the state sought to gain a tactical advantage over the defendant by virtue of the pre-arrest delay.” Therefore, the Superior Court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
When faced with a charge of evading responsibility, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.