Owens v. Superior Court

Decision Date23 October 1980
Citation168 Cal.Rptr. 466,28 Cal.3d 238
Parties, 617 P.2d 1098 Richard OWENS, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent, The PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest. L.A. 31188.
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court

Wilbur F. Littlefield, Public Defender, Dennis A. Fischer, Patrick G. Rogan and John L. Ryan, Deputy Public Defenders, for petitioner.

No appearance for respondent.

John K. Van de Kamp, Dist. Atty., Donald J. Kaplan and Maurice H. Oppenheim, Deputy Dist. Attys., for real party in interest.

BIRD, Chief Justice.

Can Penal Code section 1382, which requires that a person charged with a felony be brought to trial within 60 days of the filing of charges in superior court, be interpreted so as to give the state additional time by staying the operation of the statute during any continuances requested by a defendant?


An information filed on October 18, 1978, charged petitioner with two counts of robbery (Pen.Code, § 211) and alleged that he had used a firearm in committing one of those offenses. (Pen.Code, § 12022.5.) That same day, petitioner was arraigned, pleaded not guilty, and denied the allegation of firearm use. The public defender's office was appointed to represent him, and a pretrial conference and trial setting date were scheduled for November 17, 1978.

On that day, trial was set for January 4, 1979, at petitioner's request. Because this date was more than 60 days after the filing of the information, 1 petitioner personally waived time. However, on January 4, petitioner's counsel was engaged in another trial, and he suggested that petitioner's case be reset for January 11. Over the specific objection of petitioner, who remained in custody throughout the period in question, the court continued his trial to January 8. Defense counsel was occupied with yet another trial on January 8, so petitioner's case was continued to January 9 and again to the morning of January 11, at which time petitioner's attorney answered ready for trial.

However, the prosecution indicated that it had not yet located its witnesses, the two victims of the alleged robberies. The court recessed the matter until the afternoon session, where it learned that the prosecution would be unable to "ascertain their readiness" until January 15. The court thereupon trailed the case to that date.

The prosecution still had not contacted its witnesses by January 15 and requested that the court again trail the matter. Over petitioner's objection, the court ordered the matter trailed to January 22, which both the court and the attorneys regarded as the final day to commence trial within the limits set by section 1382. 2

On January 22, the prosecution indicated that it still had not located the witnesses, and petitioner moved to dismiss pursuant to section 1382. In response, the prosecution put on evidence in an attempt to establish good cause to continue the trial past the statutorily prescribed period. The court denied petitioner's motion to dismiss and found good cause to grant the prosecution's request to continue the case until the following day. (See post, at pp. 473-475 of [617 P.2d 1101] 168 Cal.Rptr., at pp. ---- - ---- of --- P.2d.)

On January 23, the prosecution's witnesses were present in the courtroom. Petitioner renewed his motion to dismiss under section 1382, and the court again denied it. Petitioner then filed a petition for writ of prohibition/mandate, which the Court of Appeal summarily denied. His application for a hearing in this court was granted and the case retransferred to the Court of Appeal with directions to issue an alternative writ and with citations to section 1382 and People v. Rodriguez (1971) 15 Cal.App.3d 481, 93 Cal.Rptr. 182. The Court of Appeal, with one justice dissenting, denied the writ petition. Petitioner reapplied for a hearing here, and this court again granted his request.


This court must first determine whether delays requested by an accused are to be deducted from the 60-day statutory period when a speedy trial claim is raised under section 1382, subdivision 2. The issue posed is one of statutory interpretation, and a court's first recourse is properly to the language of the statute itself. (Fay v. District Court of Appeal (1927) 200 Cal. 522, 537, 254 P. 896.)

On its face, subdivision 2 of section 1382 makes no mention of suspending the running of the 60-day period. It provides that an accused is entitled to be brought to trial "within 60 days after the finding of the indictment or the filing of the information ...." This unqualified language seems to require a trial within 60 consecutive calendar days of the filing of an information. This is consistent with the method of computing time which is ordinarily employed in this state. (See Code of Civ.Proc., § 12.) 3 Had the Legislature intended that the 60 days were to consist only of those days of delay not requested by the accused, it would surely have made explicit provision for such an adjustment.

The legislative history of section 1382 substantiates the import of the statute's language, and makes clear that the "60-day" requirement involves 60 consecutive calendar days. Prior to 1959, the statutory right to dismissal for noncompliance with the 60-day requirement was extended only to "a defendant, whose trial has not been postponed upon his application ...." 4 There was no provision for a 10-day "grace period," and the statute was unclear as to whether an accused who obtained a postponement of his trial to a date past the 60-day limit thereby lost forever his statutory rights to a speedy trial and a dismissal. Moreover, section 1382 did not indicate whether these statutory rights were affected by an accused's request for a postponement to a date within the 60-day period.

These ambiguities in the statute led to confusion in the case law. For example, in In re Lopez (1952) 39 Cal.2d 118, 245 P.2d 1, this court held that an accused who consented to a trial date beyond the 60-day time limit thereby waived any statutory right he had to a dismissal on that date. However, the court continued, such consent "does not amount to a waiver of his constitutional right to a speedy trial nor of the requirement that further delay must be justified on grounds of reasonableness and good cause." (Id., at p. 120, 245 P.2d 3, citations omitted; emphasis added.) The Lopez court did not cite any source for this "requirement" of justification for further delay, and the Judicial Council noted a few years later that it was "not clear" whether the requirement was derived from section 1382. (Judicial Council of Cal., 17th Biennial Rep. (1959) pp. 31-32.)

There was even greater confusion in the cases regarding the effect of a postponement to a date within the 60-day period. As the Judicial Council observed, "It is not clear whether the defendant waives his right to claim under the section (see People v. Buckley (1897), 116 Cal. 146, 152, 47 P. 1009 ...), or whether the running of the statutory period is suspended during a delay caused by the defendant (see People v. Peter (1912), 20 Cal.App. 151, 152, 128 P. 415 ...) or whether only a delay causing the trial to be set beyond the statutory period has any effect." (Judicial Council of Cal., 17th Biennial Rep., supra, p. 32, fn. 43.)

Pursuant to its constitutional mandate, 5 the Judicial Council urged the Legislature to clarify these ambiguities in section 1382. It "recommended that the section be amended to provide for dismissal of all cases not brought to trial within the statutory period (unless good cause is shown) except when the defendant has consented to the trial being set beyond the statutory period, and that in the latter situation the case must be dismissed if it is not brought to trial within 10 days after the last date for trial to which the defendant consented. This will clarify the present rule by (a) establishing that dismissal under Section 1382 may be had even though the defendant has previously consented to a delay beyond the statutory period, (b) fixing 10 days as a reasonable time for trial after expiration of the period consented to by the defendant, and (c) eliminating the possibility that delays attributable to a defendant which are wholly within the statutory period may prevent dismissal." (Id. at p. 32.)

To implement its recommendations, the Judicial Council proposed an amendment to section 1382, which proposal was enacted as Senate Bill 614. The text of the eventual amendment adopted verbatim the language proposed by the Judicial Council. Insofar as relevant to the present case, the language added to subdivision 2 by the 1959 amendment remains intact today.

"Reports of commissions which have proposed statutes that are subsequently adopted are entitled to substantial weight in construing the statutes. (Citations.) This is particularly true where the statute proposed by the commission is adopted by the Legislature without any change whatsoever and where the commission's comment is brief, because in such a situation there is ordinarily strong reason to believe that the legislators' votes were based in large measure upon the explanation of the commission proposing the bill." (Van Arsdale v. Hollinger (1968) 68 Cal.2d 245, 249-250, 66 Cal.Rptr. 20, 437 P.2d 508.) Thus, the Judicial Council's explanation of its recommendation can leave little doubt that the Legislature also intended the 1959 amendment to "establish ( ) that dismissal under Section 1382 may be had even though the defendant has previously consented to a delay beyond the statutory period" and to "eliminat(e) the possibility that delays attributable to a defendant which are wholly within the statutory period may prevent dismissal." (Judicial Council of Cal., 17th Biennial Rep., supra, p. 32.) 6 These desired effects are incompatible with a rule that delays requested by the accused toll the running of the statutory period.

The district attorney discusses neither the language nor the...

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