50 N.Y.2d 413, People v. Brothers

Citation:50 N.Y.2d 413, 429 N.Y.S.2d 558
Party Name:People v. Brothers
Case Date:May 29, 1980
Court:New York Court of Appeals
 
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Page 413

50 N.Y.2d 413

429 N.Y.S.2d 558

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent,

v.

Melvin BROTHERS, Also Known as Arthur Every Regan, Appellant.

New York Court of Appeals

May 29, 1980.

        Anna M. Perry, Stony Brook and John F. Middlemiss, Jr., Hauppauge, for appellant.

        Patrick Henry, Dist. Atty. (Gabrielle Weglein and Maureen S. Hoerger, Asst. Dist. Attys., of counsel), for respondent.

OPINION OF THE COURT

        JONES, Judge.

        Inasmuch as CPL 30.30 accords a defendant the right to dismissal of his indictment "where the people are not ready for trial" within the period prescribed by the statute [429 N.Y.S.2d 559] rather than according him a legislatively created right to a speedy trial, court congestion does not excuse the People's failure to be ready for trial or defeat defendant's entitlement to a dismissal under CPL 30.30.

        Defendant was arrested on New Year's Day, 1975 and indicted the following February 13 on two counts of driving while intoxicated as a felony (Vehicle and Traffic Law, § 1192, subds. 2 and 5, and subds. 3 and 5). He was arraigned on February 26, 1975 by Suffolk County Court and released on his own recognizance. The case appeared on the County Court Calendar on March 27 and again on April 3. On the latter date, apparently with defendant's consent, it was transferred to a "ready reserve" calendar and remained there until January 20, 1976 when it was transferred to Supreme Court, Suffolk County. It next appeared on the calendar of that court on February 19, 1976.

        On March 3, 1976 defendant moved for dismissal of his indictment under CPL 30.30 (statutory ready trial rule) and CPL 30.20 (constitutional right to speedy trial). The prosecutor submitted no papers in opposition to the motion. On March 19, 1976 the court obtained and introduced into the record factual and statistical data with reference to the trial of criminal cases in Suffolk County Court. Based on that data and on his own personal knowledge of the Trial Calendar situation in that court, the hearing Judge found that the "sheer weight of numbers" of cases (including those involving incarcerated defendants charged with class A, B and C felonies) coupled with the limited availability of judicial personnel constituted, with respect to defendant who was charged with a class E felony and was not incarcerated, "exceptional circumstances" within the meaning of CPL 30.30 (subd. 4, par. (g)) and denied the motion to dismiss on both branches. Thereafter on April 23, 1976 defendant pleaded guilty to the first count of the indictment (Vehicle and Traffic Law, § 1192, subds. 2, 5), and sentence was imposed. On appeal the Appellate Division affirmed the judgment of conviction. We now reverse, vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment.

        On the CPL 30.30 branch of the appeal we note that, although on oral argument of the motion to dismiss the prosecutor asserted that he had been ready for trial as early as April 3, 1975, there was submitted to the hearing court no record proof of any contemporaneous communication of his readiness within the standard enunciated in People v. Hamilton, 46 N.Y.2d 932, 933, 415 N.Y.S.2d...

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