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Criminal Procedure Law § 30.30- The Speedy Trial Rule And Superseding Indictments: Relating Back And The “Directly Derived” Rule

Issue : Speedy Trial Rules under CPL § 30.30 – whether charges in an indictment, filed over a year after the initial accusatory instrument, are barred by the speedy trial provisions of CPL § 30.30 where the charges in the indictment are directly derived from the initial accusatory instrument within the meaning of CPL § 1.20(16) where the initial accusatory instrument was a desk appearance ticket, which was replaced by a misdemeanor complaint about two months later.

Holding : The Court of Appeals found that where the commencement of a later filed accusatory instrument relates back to the filing date of the original accusatory instrument then the excluded time during the pendency of the original accusatory instrument will also relate back and apply to the new accusatory instrument. The Court applied the “directly derived” rule to determine whether the charges in the new accusatory instrument were sufficiently related to those in the original accusatory instrument to apply the speedy trial rule under CPL § 30.30: Directly derived is specifically whether the indictment can be traced to or originates from the prior accusatory instrument.

Facts : Complainant was taking photographs of a construction site in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn on August 18, 2005, when he was approached by defendant. After complainant tried to walk away, defendant punched him in the face several times and took his camera. The police issued defendant a desk appearance ticket, charging him with assault in the third degree, and he appeared in Criminal Court on September 26, 2005 to answer that charge. Approximately one month later, the People filed a misdemeanor complaint charging defendant with assault in the third degree, menacing in the third degree and harassment in the second degree. A series of adjournments followed and, during that period, the People answered ready for trial. On November 8, 2006, the People filed an indictment, also based on the August 18, 2005 incident, charging defendant with robbery in the first, second and third degrees, petit larceny, assault in the second and third degrees, grand larceny in the fourth degree, criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree and menacing in the third degree. The People filed a statement of readiness for trial the same day.

Defendant moved to dismiss the theft-related counts in the indictment on CPL 30.30 speedy trial grounds, arguing that the time began accruing for speedy trial purposes when defendant appeared on the desk appearance ticket, but that all delay in pursuing the indictment was solely attributable to the People.

Legal Analysis : Criminal Procedure Law § 30.30, the speedy trial statute, sets forth the time frame, beginning with the commencement of the action, within which the People must answer ready for trial and specifies certain periods of time that must be excluded from the calculation of the People’s readiness time (CPL 30.30 [1], [4]). A criminal action is typically commenced when an accusatory instrument is filed against a defendant in criminal court (see CPL 1.20 [16]). Once the action has been commenced, it "includes the filing of all further accusatory instruments directly derived from the initial one" (CPL 1.20 [16]). Where, as here, the defendant has been served with an appearance ticket, the statute deems the commencement date of the action the date of defendant’s first criminal court appearance in response to the ticket (see CPL 30.30 [5][b]; People v Stirrup, 91 NY2d 434, 438 [1998]).

The Court of Appeals stated: As we have previously held, "[w]e perceive no logical reason why, when a subsequent indictment is related back to the commencement of the proceeding for purposes of applying the six-month limitation prescribed by CPL 30.30 (1)(a), it should not also be related back for the purpose of computing the time to be excluded from that limitation" (People v Sinistaj, 67 NY2d 236, 239 [1986]). We observed that the provisions of CPL 30.30 should be interpreted as an integrated whole and that applying only one part of the statute to a subsequent indictment would be contrary to that principle (see Sinistaj, 67 NY2d at 239-240). Since the parties agree that these charges are sufficiently related to require the same commencement date for speedy trial purposes, under the rationale of Sinistaj, they are sufficiently related to apply the same excludable time.

There is some question as to whether this indictment was "directly derived" from the initial accusatory instrument within the meaning of CPL 1.20 (16). The term "directly derived" is not defined in the Penal Law and we have determined that it should be accorded its plain meaning – specifically, whether the indictment can be traced to or originates from the prior accusatory instrument (see People v Osgood, 52 NY2d 37, 44 [1980]). Here, the indictment appears to satisfy that test because the charges, including the theft-based charges, originate from the prior accusatory instrument, incorporating the same physical injury component. However, it is unnecessary to make that determination in this case because, as noted above, if the charges are sufficiently related to apply the same commencement date, they are likewise sufficiently related for purposes of applying excludable time.