Florida Speedy Trial Rules
Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191 (known as the “speedy trial rule”) requires the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office to bring a defendant to trial within a time from the date the defendant is taken into custody or given the notice to appear in court to answer charges.
The time limit for a misdemeanor charge is 90 days. The time limit for a felony charge is 175 days. This article discusses how these rules apply in misdemeanor and felony cases for driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances (“DUI”).
The defendant has the right to demand a speedy trial, which will substantially shorten the time period, especially if the charge is a felony.
Attorney Speedy Trial Rules in DUI Cases
The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm pay particular attention to case law involving Florida’s speedy trial rules. We represent clients charged with DUI throughout Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County, and all of the surrounding counties throughout the Tampa Bay area.
These rules are particularly important in DUI cases involving a blood test reading or when someone was injured in a crash.
This article also explains the difference between the speedy trial rules and the statute of limitations in DUI prosecutions.
Notice of Expiration of Speedy Trial
The speedy trial rule is not self-executing. Instead, the defendant must take affirmative action to trigger the remedies available under the rule for the prosecutor’s failure to comply with the requisite time limitations. These affirmative steps are required to trigger the application of Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191(p)(3).
The remedies under the rule will either ensure a speedy trial or a discharge from the alleged crime. Once the applicable period has expired, the accused must file a notice of expiration under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191(h). A hearing must be held within five business days, and unless one of the exceptions contained in the rule applies, the trial court shall order that the defendant
A hearing must be held within five business days, and unless one of the exceptions contained in the rule applies, the trial court shall order that the defendant be brought to trial within ten calendar days or be forever discharged from the crime. Fla. R.Crim. P. 3.191(p).
Combined 15-Day Recapture Period
The combined fifteen-day period is often called the “window of recapture” or “recapture period.” The recapture period gives the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office the final opportunity to bring the defendant to trial within fifteen days of the filing of the notice of expiration.
The failure to comply with the recapture provisions of the rule should prompt the accused to file a motion for discharge with the trial court. See Fla. R.Crim. P. 3.191(p)(3).
Prohibition Against Nolle Prosequi and Refiling
Rule 3.191(o) prohibits the state from circumventing the remedial provisions of the speedy trial rule by entering a nolle prosequi and later refiling charges after the speedy trial period has expired:
(o) Nolle Prosequi; Effect. The intent and effect of this rule shall not be avoided by the state by entering a nolle prosequi to a crime charged and by prosecuting a new crime grounded on the same conduct or criminal episode or otherwise by prosecuting new and different charges based on the same conduct or criminal episode, whether or not the pending charge is suspended, continued, or is the subject of entry of a nolle prosequi.
Fla. R.Crim. P. 3.191(o). Under this rule, when the prosecutor enters a nol pross, the speedy trial period continues to run. After that, the State may not refile charges based on the same conduct after the period has expired. In other words, the window of recapture is not available to the state for any charge filed after the speedy trial period runs.
Prohibition for Termination by Voluntary Dismissal Before Charges Filed
The prohibition against filing charges after speed trial runs also applies to situations when the prosecution is terminated by a voluntary dismissal before an indictment or information is filed. This might occur in a DUI case when the defendant is arrested, and the state announces that it will bring no action before formal charges are brought by the filing of an information or indictment.
Even in those cases, the courts have held that the speedy trial period starts when the defendant is taken into custody. It then continues to run when the prosecutor voluntarily terminates prosecution before formal charges are filed. After that, the prosecutor may not file charges based on the same conduct after the speedy trial period has expired.
The state “may not circumvent the purpose and intent of the speedy trial rule by:
- entering a nolle prosequi of the charges and waiting to refile them until after the speedy trial period has expired;
- voluntarily dismissing the charges before they are formally filed and filing formal charges after the time limit has expired; or
- taking no action after the defendant is arrested and waiting until after the speedy trial period has expired to file formal charges.”
State v. Clifton, 905 So. 2d 172, 179 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2005). In each of these situations, the prosecutor has effectively abandoned the prosecution. Therefore, the recapture provisions of the rule do not apply. As a result, in these situations, the defendant must be discharged.
Amending the Charging Document after the Speedy Trial Period Expires
Can the state amend the charging document (called the “information”) after the speedy trial time period has expired? As a general rule, the state maintains the right to amend its information as the prosecution of the defendant progresses as long as the defendant is not prejudiced.
In fact, in State v. Erickson, 852 So.2d 289 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003), the court explained that “[i}t is well-settled that the state may amend its information pre-trial or even during trial, either as to substantive or non-substantive matters, unless the defendant is prejudiced thereby.”
Therefore, when the State tries to amend the charging document after the speedy trial period has run, the issue is whether the defendant was prejudiced by the amended information. Under this analysis, the court must decide:
- “whether there has been an abandonment or cessation of the prosecution previously initiated; and
- if not, whether the amendment causes prejudice to the defendant.”
State v. Clifton, 905 So. 2d 172, 179 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2005).
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