State v. Maddox, 30,526.

Citation195 P.3d 1254, 2008 NMSC 062
Case DateOctober 21, 2008
CourtSupreme Court of New Mexico
195 P.3d 1254
2008 NMSC 062
STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Petitioner,
Todd MADDOX, Defendant-Respondent.
No. 30,526.
Supreme Court of New Mexico.
October 21, 2008.

[195 P.3d 1258]

Gary K. King, Attorney General, Katherine Zinn, Assistant Attorney General, Santa Fe, NM, for Petitioner.

Hugh W. Dangler, Chief Public Defender, Nancy M. Hewitt, Appellate Defender, Santa Fe, NM, for Respondent.


MAES, Justice.

{1} This case involves a twenty-eight-month delay in prosecution caused by Defendant's incarceration in another state and the parties' intermittent plea negotiations. A grand jury indicted Defendant on September 21, 2001, for unlawful taking of a vehicle, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 66-3-504(A)(2) (1998) or, in the alternative, embezzlement, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-16-8 (1995, prior to amendments through 2007). The State did not arrest Defendant until July 14, 2003, when Defendant was extradited to New Mexico after serving a prison sentence in Florida. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on January 15, 2004, alleging that his speedy trial rights under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article II, Section 14 of the New Mexico Constitution had been violated. The district court denied the motion, and Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court, holding that the twenty-eight-month delay deprived Defendant of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. State v. Maddox, 2007-NMCA-102, ¶ 37, 142 N.M. 400, 166 P.3d 461. On petition of certiorari from the State, we reverse the Court of Appeals and affirm Defendant's conviction and sentence because the delay in this case was reasonable and did not cause Defendant undue prejudice.


{2} We have distilled the facts of this case to a time line of notable events. We will include other facts as necessary to our discussion.

A. Time Line of Events

{3} September 21, 2001: Defendant was indicted for unlawful taking of a vehicle or, alternatively, embezzlement, and a bench warrant was issued.

195 P.3d 1259

December 13, 2002: The State lodged a detainer against Defendant with a Florida prison in connection to a probation violation unrelated to the indictment filed in this case.

March 10, 2003: Defense counsel entered an appearance and pro-forma demand for speedy trial.

April 18-24, 2003: Email conversation between defense counsel and the State, in which defense counsel suggested possible resolution of the charges.

June 16, 2003: The State received forms sent by Defendant asserting his rights to a speedy resolution of the charges under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD). Defendant had asked Florida prison officials to mail the IAD forms on April 3, 2003, and again on June 6, 2003.

July 14, 2003: Defendant completed his Florida sentence and was transported to New Mexico.

July 28, 2003: Defendant was arraigned.

August 23, 2003: The State sent a written plea offer to defense counsel.

November 17, 2003: Defense counsel responded to plea offer with a counter-offer that would allow Defendant to participate in the district court's Drug Court Program.

December 16, 2003: Pretrial conference in which defense counsel advised that Defendant wished to proceed to trial. The district court set the trial for January 20, 2004. Defense counsel sent an email to the State, continuing plea negotiations.

January 15, 2004: Defendant filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice, alleging his speedy trial right had been violated.

January 20, 2004: The district court continued trial setting and instead heard and denied motion to dismiss. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal denial of motion.

B. The Court of Appeals' Opinion

{4} The Court of Appeals initially remanded the case for entry of written findings of fact and conclusions of law relating to the speedy trial factors articulated in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 33 L.Ed.2d 101 (1972). After the district court entered its findings and conclusions, the Court of Appeals, in a divided Opinion, held that the length of delay in this case was presumptively prejudicial and weighed heavily against the State. Maddox, 2007-NMCA-102, ¶ 12, 142 N.M. 400, 166 P.3d 461. The Court held that the State failed to justify the delay and weighed the entire delay against the State. Id. ¶¶ 20-21, 29. The Court further held that Defendant asserted his right to a speedy trial "early and often" and that Defendant suffered slight prejudice consequent to the delay. Id. ¶ 37. Balancing these considerations, the Court of Appeals' majority held that the twenty-eight-month delay violated Defendant's right to a speedy trial. Id.

{5} The dissent argued that the nature of plea bargaining is to seek a resolution of mutual benefit both to the State and Defendant. Id. ¶ 43 ("[Defendant] has a constitutional right to a trial, but he has no constitutional right to a plea bargain."). The dissent argued that the time it takes to go through such plea negotiations should not weigh against the State. Id. The dissenting judge would have weighed the period of plea negotiations neutrally between the parties. On this and other grounds, the dissent argued against reversing Defendant's conviction.


{6} Defendant has asserted his speedy trial right under the New Mexico Constitution, Article II, Section 14, as well as the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Defendant has not argued whether New Mexico's speedy trial guarantee should be interpreted differently than the Sixth Amendment, and we will not answer that question here. We apply the speedy trial analysis established in Barker and subsequent cases in the federal courts. See State v. Coffin, 1999-NMSC-038, ¶ 54 n. 2, 128 N.M. 192, 991 P.2d 477; see also Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213, 222-23, 87 S.Ct. 988, 18 L.Ed.2d 1 (1967) (declaring the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial to be

195 P.3d 1260

applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment).

{7} In Barker, the United States Supreme Court created "a balancing test, in which the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant are weighed." 407 U.S. at 529-30, 92 S.Ct. 2182. The Court identified four factors: (1) the length of delay, (2) the reasons for the delay, (3) the defendant's assertion of his right, and (4) the actual prejudice to the defendant that, on balance, determines whether a defendant's right to a speedy trial has been violated. Id. at 530, 92 S.Ct. 2182; see Zurla v. State, 109 N.M. 640, 642, 789 P.2d 588, 590 (1990) (adopting the Barker balancing test).

{8} A district court weighing these factors must necessarily make certain factual determinations and legal conclusions. When reviewing a district court's denial of a motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds, we give deference to the court's factual findings. State v. Urban, 2004-NMSC-007, ¶ 11, 135 N.M. 279, 87 P.3d 1061. Weighing and balancing the Barker factors is a legal determination that we review de novo. Urban, 2004-NMSC-007, ¶ 11, 135 N.M. 279, 87 P.3d 1061.

A. Length of Delay

{9} "This factor serves two functions: (1) the length of delay must cross a threshold to establish a presumption of prejudice and (2) to trigger further inquiry into the other factors. See id. This Court has adopted bright-line guidelines to determine whether the length of delay is presumptively prejudicial, depending on the level of complexity involved in prosecuting a case. Under the premise that "the delay that can be tolerated for an ordinary street crime is considerably less than for a serious, complex conspiracy charge," Barker, 407 U.S. at 530-31, 92 S.Ct. 2182 our analysis first assigns a level of complexity to the case—simple, intermediate, or complex. Salandre v. State, 111 N.M. 422, 428 & n. 3, 806 P.2d 562, 568 & n. 3 (1991). "[A] minimum of nine months delay is necessary to trigger further inquiry into the claim of a violation of the right to speedy trial in simple cases, twelve months in cases of intermediate complexity, and fifteen months in complex cases." Coffin, 1999-NMSC-038, ¶ 56, 128 N.M. 192, 991 P.2d 477.

{10} We calculate the length of delay from the date the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial attached "when the defendant becomes an accused, that is, by a filing of a formal indictment or information or arrest and holding to answer." Urban, 2004-NMSC-007, ¶ 12, 135 N.M. 279, 87 P.3d 1061 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In the present case, the grand jury indicted Defendant on September 21, 2001, and Defendant entered his conditional guilty plea on January 20, 2004, approximately twenty-eight months later.

{11} The parties have not challenged our current guidelines for determining whether the delay in a case is presumptively prejudicial.1 We assume without deciding that these guidelines continue to accurately represent the customary promptness with which cases are prosecuted. See Doggett v. United States, 505 U.S. 647, 651-52, 112 S.Ct. 2686, 120 L.Ed.2d 520 (1992).

{12} This assumption does not affect the result in this case. The twenty-eight-month delay is extraordinary and, therefore, presumptively prejudicial. Having made that determination, "the burden of persuasion shifts to the State to show that, considering the four factors as a whole, the defendant's constitutional rights have not been violated." Urban, 2004-NMSC-007, ¶ 11, 135 N.M. 279, 87 P.3d 1061.

B. Reasons for Delay

{13} The reasons for a period of the delay may either heighten or temper the prejudice to the defendant caused by the length of the delay. See Barker, 407 U.S. at 531, 92 S.Ct. 2182 ("A deliberate attempt to delay the trial in order to hamper the defense should be weighted heavily against the government."); Urban, 2004-NMSC-007,

195 P.3d 1261

¶ 20, 135 N.M. 279, 87 P.3d 1061 ("[T]he total delay,...

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