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United States v. Martin

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston

April 15, 2019




         Pending before the court was defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment with prejudice for violation of the Speedy Trial Act. (ECF No. 37). The government filed a response in opposition to defendant's motion, see ECF No. 38, and a pretrial motions hearing was held in this matter on March 26, 2019. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court GRANTED defendant's motion insofar as it sought dismissal of the indictment but DENIED the motion to dismiss with prejudice. Instead, the court dismissed the indictment without prejudice. The reasons for that decision follow.


         A criminal complaint was filed against Martin on October 5, 2018, charging her with possession with intent to distribute a Schedule II controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Martin was arrested in connection with this charge that same day and had an initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Dwane L. Tinsley. On October 16, 2018, preliminary and detention hearings were held before Magistrate Judge Tinsley and Martin was ordered detained. On October 25, 2018, a “Waiver of Right to Be Indicted Within Thirty (30) Days” was filed. The Waiver was signed by both Martin and her attorney.[1] Thereafter, on January 30, 2019, Martin filed a motion to dismiss the criminal complaint. On February 6, 2019, a one-count indictment was filed charging Martin with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).


         The Speedy Trial Act (“the Act”) requires that “[a]ny information or indictment charging an individual with the commission of an offense shall be filed within thirty days from the date on which such individual was arrested or served with a summons in connection with such charges.” 18 U.S.C. § 3161(b). If an indictment or information is not filed within the thirty-day period, “such charge against that individual contained in such complaint shall be dismissed or otherwise dropped.” 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(1). Dismissal is mandatory if the government fails to comply with the applicable time limits. See United States v. Cherry, 720 F.3d 161, 165 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(1) in recounting “the consequences for failing to timely indict . . . a defendant”).[2]

         A. The indictment must be dismissed

         The government concedes that Martin was not indicted within the requisite thirty (30) days. Accordingly, everyone agrees that the indictment (and the underlying criminal complaint) must be dismissed. Defendant and the government differ, however, on whether that dismissal should be with or without prejudice.

         B. Dismissal with or without prejudice

         In determining whether a dismissal under 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(1) should be with or with prejudice, “the court shall consider, among others, each of the following factors: the seriousness of the offense; the facts and circumstances of the case which led to the dismissal; and the impact of a reprosecution on the administration of this chapter and on the administration of justice.” 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(1); see also United States v. Taylor, 487 U.S. 326, 333, (1988) (“As is plain from the language, courts are not free simply to exercise their equitable powers in fashioning an appropriate remedy, but, in order to proceed under the Act, must consider at least the three specified factors.”). Prejudice to the defendant is another factor which the court should consider in determining whether to bar reprosecution. See Taylor, 487 U.S. at 334 (“Although the discussion in the House is inconclusive as to the weight to be Cherry, 720 F.3d at 165. This case involves a violation of the “speedy indictment” provision of the Act. given to the presence or absence of prejudice to the defendant, there is little doubt that Congress intended this factor to be relevant for a district court's consideration.”).

         “The legislative history also confirms that, consistent with the language of the statute, Congress did not intend any particular type of dismissal to serve as the presumptive remedy for a Speedy Trial Act violation.” Id. A district court's decision in this regard is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. See id. at 335 (“[T]he decision to dismiss with or without prejudice was left to the guided discretion of the district court, and [ ] neither remedy was given priority.”). Of the court's discretion in ths regard, the Taylor court summarized:

Ordinarily, a trial court is endowed with great discretion to make decisions concerning trial schedules and to respond to abuse and delay where appropriate. The Speedy Trial Act, however, confines the exercise of that discretion more narrowly, mandating dismissal of the indictment upon violation of precise time limits, and specifying criteria to consider in deciding whether to bar reprosecution.

Id. at 343-44.

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