Martin v. People, 85SC148

Decision Date08 June 1987
Docket NumberNo. 85SC148,85SC148
Citation738 P.2d 789
PartiesJason MARTIN, a/k/a Zambezi Zakee, Petitioner, v. The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
CourtColorado Supreme Court

David F. Vela, Colorado State Public Defender Claire Levy, Deputy State Public Defender, Jonathan S. Willett, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, for petitioner.

Duane Woodard, Atty. Gen., Charles B. Howe, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., Richard H. Forman, Sol. Gen., Peter J. Stapp, Asst. Atty. Gen., Denver, for respondent.


The defendant, Jason Martin, was convicted in the Fremont County District Court of possession of contraband, § 18-8-204.1, 8B C.R.S. (1986), and second degree assault, § 18-3-203(1)(f), 8B C.R.S. (1986). The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction in People v. Martin, 707 P.2d 1005 (Colo.App.1985), rejecting the defendant's contentions that his case should be dismissed for failure to comply with the requirements of the Uniform Mandatory Disposition of Detainers Act (Uniform Act), §§ 16-14-101 to -108, 8A C.R.S. (1986), and that the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence. We granted certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals, and now affirm.


On September 24, 1982, while serving a sentence at the Shadow Mountain Correctional Facility for attempted first degree murder, the defendant became involved in an altercation with several security officers. An information was filed on January 21, 1983, in the Fremont County District Court, charging the defendant with one count of possession of contraband and two counts of second degree assault. A detainer was filed with the Department of Corrections on January 25, 1983, and the defendant formally requested disposition of the detainer under the Uniform Act on January 27. On February 10, the parties agreed to a trial date of May 2 and 3, 1983.

For reasons not disclosed by the record, the superintendent of the facility where the defendant was confined did not send the defendant's request for disposition of the detainer to the trial court or the district attorney until March 1. The trial court received the request on March 4.

Before commencement of the trial on May 2, the defendant moved to dismiss the charges against him on the ground that the superintendent failed to comply with provisions of the Uniform Act requiring prompt forwarding of his request for disposition of the detainer. The trial court denied the motion. During the trial, the defendant objected to the People's request for admission into evidence of a mittimus containing information about his prior attempted first degree murder conviction. The trial court overruled the objection, and the defendant elected to testify. In affirming the convictions the Court of Appeals rejected the defendant's arguments that both of these rulings were erroneous.


The Uniform Act ensures that a prisoner will not be subject indefinitely to adverse terms and conditions of imprisonment as a result of the filing of a detainer. See People v. Higinbotham, 712 P.2d 993 (Colo.1986). It also furthers the right to speedy trial guaranteed by article II, section 16, of the Colorado Constitution and the sixth and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution. People v. Higinbotham, 712 P.2d 993; People v. Lewis, 680 P.2d 226 (Colo.1984), rev'd in part on other grounds, People v. Higinbotham, 712 P.2d 993; see People v. Swazo, 199 Colo. 486, 610 P.2d 1072 (1980). It is designed to ensure that a prisoner has an effective means of achieving speedy disposition of untried charges underlying a detainer so that participation in prison rehabilitation programs will not be unduly disrupted because the detainer was filed. People v. Higinbotham, 712 P.2d 993. In furtherance of these purposes, the Uniform Act requires the superintendent of the institution wherein a prisoner is confined to promptly inform the prisoner of the source and nature of any untried formal charges filed against the prisoner and of the right to request final disposition thereof. § 16-14-102. The Uniform Act contains the following provisions:

Any request [for final disposition of any untried indictment, information, or criminal complaint pending in this state] shall be delivered to the superintendent where the prisoner is confined who shall forthwith:

(a) Certify the term of commitment under which the prisoner is being held, the time already served on the sentence, the time remaining to be served, the good time earned, the time of parole eligibility of the prisoner, and any decisions of the state board of parole relating to the prisoner; and

(b) Send, by registered mail, a copy of the request made by the prisoner and a copy of the information certified under paragraph (a) of this subsection (1) to both the court having jurisdiction of the untried offense and to the prosecuting official charged with the duty of prosecuting the offense.

§ 16-14-103(1) (emphasis added). A superintendent's failure to comply with these mandatory requirements may, in some circumstances, justify dismissal of the charges underlying the detainer. People v. Higinbotham, 712 P.2d 993.

The Court of Appeals and the trial court determined that the defendant waived any objection he might have had to the superintendent's failure to comply with the requirements of section 16-14-103 because no objection was asserted until the day of trial. We disagree with this analysis. Nothing in the statute or in our previous decisions indicates that a prisoner should automatically be deprived of the benefits of the Uniform Act merely because he silently relies on the statute's provisions. Of course, a defendant may waive his speedy trial rights under the Uniform Act by freely acquiescing in a trial date beyond the ninety-day speedy trial period imposed by section 16-14-104. 1 People v. Sevigny, 679 P.2d 1070 (Colo.1984); People v. Mascarenas, 666 P.2d 101 (Colo.1983). This waiver concept, however, is based on the fact that a defendant's participation in selecting a trial date would contribute directly to any violation of the ninety-day provision. In that circumstance, the defendant has an opportunity to cure the statutory defect by promptly raising the issue. People v. Mascarenas, 666 P.2d at 106-07.

A superintendent's failure to fulfill the duties imposed by section 16-14-103 is itself a violation of the Uniform Act that is independent of any violation of the ninety-day provision of section 16-14-104. See People v. Higinbotham, 712 P.2d 993, 996 (violation of prompt notification requirement is independent violation of Uniform Act). The waiver analysis applicable to assertions of rights under section 16-14-104 is not appropriate when a prisoner asserts violations of section 16-14-103.

Here, the defendant played no role in the asserted violation of the Uniform Act. There was no violation of section 16-14-104; the case was brought to trial within ninety days after the trial court's receipt of the request for disposition. Furthermore, the defendant's attorney was apparently unaware of the request until informed by the trial court on March 7. Thus, the defendant's participation in scheduling the case for trial is irrelevant to the waiver issue presented here. Although the defendant might have prevented this violation of the "forthwith" requirement by informing the court of his request for disposition and asking whether it had been received, section 16-14-103 imposes no such obligation on the defendant. See, e.g., People v. Diaz, 94 Misc.2d 1010, 406 N.Y.S.2d 239 (Sup.1978) (sole obligation of defendant under Interstate Agreement on Detainers is to advise warden of request for disposition of charges); accord People v. Daily, 46 Ill.App.3d 195, 4 Ill.Dec. 756, 360 N.E.2d 1131 (1977). Accordingly, we conclude that the defendant did not waive his right to object to a violation of section 16-14-103.

The state bears the burden of establishing that the prisoner's request for final disposition was sent "forthwith" to the trial court and prosecutor. People v. Bean, 650 P.2d 565 (Colo.1982), rev'd in part on other grounds, People v. Higinbotham, 712 P.2d 993; see also People v. Lincoln, 42 Colo.App. 512, 601 P.2d 641 (1979). In People v. Bean, we stated as follows:

A determination of whether the prison officials complied with the Uniform Act requirements must be made on an ad hoc basis, with full consideration of factors such as the length and reasons for the delay, the existence of prejudice to the defendant arising from the delay, the knowledge of the delay by prison officials, and their efforts to facilitate transmission of the request after the specific problems resulting in the delay were discovered.

650 P.2d at 568, rev'd in part on other grounds, People v. Higinbotham, 712 P.2d 993. The trial court made no findings regarding the reasons for the delay in forwarding the defendant's request, the knowledge of prison officials of the delay or the efforts of such officials to facilitate transmission of the request after the delay was discovered. In such circumstances, a remand to the trial court for specific findings of fact with respect to these factors might well be proper. See Gebhardt v. Gebhardt, 198 Colo. 28, 595 P.2d 1048 (1979). However, in denying the defendant's new trial motion in this case, the trial court implicitly determined that the defendant had suffered no prejudice caused by the delay. 2 Because that determination is supported by the record, a remand is not necessary in this case.

In People v. Higinbotham, 712 P.2d 993, we held that a defendant is entitled to dismissal of charges for violation of the prompt notification provision of section 16-14-102(2) of the Uniform Act only if the prosecution fails to demonstrate lack of prejudice to the defendant. See also Sweaney v. District Court, 713 P.2d 914 (Colo.1986) (interpreting Interstate Agreement on Detainers). We concluded that, because the Uniform Act specifies no...

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