State v. D.F.W.

The New Jersey Appellate Division dealt with two speedy trial issues under the Criminal Justice Reform Act. First, the Court reviewed the application of the 180-day extension of time to bring a defendant to trial where the State secures a superseding indictment. Second, the Court looked at the “two-year clock” that compels the State to bring a defendant to trial within two years of indictment or permit the defendant’s release from custody. As with most speedy-trial cases, dates matter. Here, the State secured an indictment and about two years later secured a superseding indictment. The State conceded that it could have obtained the superseding indictment 18 months earlier. The State told the court it was trial-ready in February of 2020, and a trial date was set in April of that year. In the interim, COVID shut the courts down, and the trial never occurred. In late 2020, the defendant moved for his release, arguing the State violated the 180-day clock and two-year clock. The Appellate Division ruled that, where the State secures a superseding indictment, the court must weigh the State’s need for more time to prepare for trial against the unfairness of granting it. In doing so, the court must be mindful of the concern of the Rule’s drafters that superseding indictments should not unduly delay a defendant’s right to a speedy trial. But in a stinging blow to defendants in pre-trial custody in New Jersey, the Court held that the court shutdown resulting from the pandemic cannot be held against the prosecutor if it was otherwise ready to proceed to trial.

D.F.W-1