Judge Dismisses Case After State Takes Three Years to File Charges

In this drug case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was arrested for sale of marijuana in 2007. However, the state did not file the marijuana charges until 2010. The criminal defense lawyer for the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges claiming that the three year delay was a due process violation and prevented the defendant from adequately defending the case.

The state had an opportunity to present witnesses to explain the legitimacy of the three year delay. One of the officers said he thought the federal government might take the case so he did not discuss the case with the state authorities to have them pursue it. It is normal practice for the state to hold off in prosecuting a case if the federal government is going to pursue it. However, nothing prevents the state from filing charges, and three years is a long time for the federal government to make a decision. In this case, the federal government apparently decided not to pursue the case a year and a half after the arrest. The state officials did not provide a good excuse as to why they waited an additional year and a half to file the drug charges after the federal government decided not to file their charges.

The two primary issues when considering a motion to dismiss based on a delay in filing charges after the arrest are the reason for the delay and whether the delay compromises the defendant’s ability to defend the case. The judge in this case dismissed the charges because the state did not provide a good excuse for the three year delay and the defendant presented a witness whose benefit to the defendant was diminished by the fact that her memory of the incident had faded.

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