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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

September 6, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
DELVIN WILLIAMS STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
DELVIN WILLIAMS

         APPEAL FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 475-646, SECTION "C" Honorable Benedict J. Willard, Judge

          Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr. DISTRICT ATTORNEY Donna Andrieu Assistant District Attorney Chief of Appeals Donald G. Cassels, III Assistant District Attorney PARISH OF ORLEANS COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT, STATE OF LOUISIANA.

          Christopher A. Aberle LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, DELVIN WILLIAMS

          Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Marion F. Edwards, Pro Tempore, Judge Terrel J. Broussard, Pro Tempore

          Terrel J. Broussard, Judge Pro Tempore.

         The State asserts that the trial court abused its discretion in granting two motions to quash in favor of the defendant, Delvin Williams. For the reasons herein we vacate the trial court's ruling and remand this matter in accordance with this decision.

         This appeal addresses the trial court's ruling quashing the charges for failure to prosecute within the legal time frame. The facts precipitating the charges are not relevant to this appeal. All relevant facts are addressed in the discussion below.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         In two consolidated cases, the State appeals the trial court's August 4, 2015 decision granting motions to quash charges against Williams. On February 7, 2008, the State filed a bill of information in case no. 475-646[1] charging Williams with possessing cocaine, in violation of La. R.S. 40:967(C)(2). He was originally arrested on this charge on August 31, 2007, and released on a $5, 000 bond on September 6, 2007. The address Williams provided on the bond he signed was "2415 St. Bernard", New Orleans, Louisiana, without a zip code. Williams was arraigned and pled not guilty to the charge in case no. 475-646 on February 26, 2008. On March 5, 2008 Williams filed a motion for discovery in case no. 475-646.

         Williams was arrested for possession of marijuana on January 9, 2008. On February 26, 2008, the State filed a bill of information in case no. 476-218[2]charging him with a third offense for possession of marijuana, a violation of then La. R.S. 40:966(E)(3)[3]. Before the bill of information was filed, Williams was released on a $2, 000 bond on January 11, 2008. The address he provided was "2415 St. Bernard Ave.", New Orleans, Louisiana 70119. Williams was not arraigned in case no. 476-218 until April 24, 2015, when he pled not guilty.

         Initially, case no. 475-646 appears to have originally been allotted to Section I[4]. It was subsequently transferred to - or "RECEIVED" in - Section C on April 24, 2008. Case no. 476-218 was "RECEIVED" in Section C on June 30, 2008.

         The docket masters contained in the record reflect an extensive period of no activity in either case. The 476-218 docket shows that Williams failed to appear for a July 14, 2008 status hearing and a July 25, 2008 motions hearing. On July 25, 2008, the docket master notes, "ALIAS CAPIAS WITH NO BOND." The docket master shows a gap of more than six years before an April 23, 2015 entry notes "FILED ARREST ON CAPIAS NOTIFICATION." Williams was arrested on April 14, 2015. The 475-646 docket master also reflects that Williams was not present at July 14 and July 25, 2008 hearings, and was arrested on April 14, 2015[5].

         The docket masters indicate that on July 10, 2015, defense counsel appeared in the trial court and filed evidentiary and discovery motions. The trial court set these motions for hearing for August 4, 2015.

         Williams filed motions to quash charges in both cases date-stamped July 30, 2015. On July 31, 2015, the docket master noted the filing of the motions to quash. In the motions to quash, Williams stated that he was arrested on other charges in Jefferson Parish in January of 2009, and remanded to Jefferson Parish Prison on March 3, 2009[6]. On April 2, 2009, Williams received a four-year sentence for the Jefferson Parish charges.

         At the August 4, 2015 hearing, the State asserted that it received the motions to quash on Friday, July 31, 2015 and requested an additional "day or two" to file oppositions. Nothing in the docket master reflects that the motions had been set for hearing. In denying the request and granting the motions, the trial court reasoned:

What will tomorrow do for your argument? What support will tomorrow have for your argument that today does not? Because I'm looking at the law and it's pretty clear and we recently had this same issue. And I'm not going to get myself into any trouble, but I think the panel was two to one in favor of a quashal because the time limits were such that you've got to issue prosecution within a certain time limit. You've got to get them to trial. And if the defendant was available by serving - even if he was serving time in a different jurisdiction the law says that there's still a two year limit to get him to trial.

         The trial court continued in reference to Williams' incarceration in Jefferson parish: "I'm not knocking the fact that you made efforts to serve. But if the person that you were trying to serve was somewhere else, I don't know who gets the blame there." In response to the State's assertion that it may not have the duty to investigate whether a defendant is in custody under State v. Romar, 2007-2140 (La. 7/1/08), 985 So.2d 722, the trial court stated, "I'm going to let you take that up. And I'm tired of being the guinea pig there. But I believe the law is clear." It is the denial of the motion to quash that the State now appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         Issue for Review

         The State raises one issue on appeal, that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the defense's motions to quash without allowing the State to meaningfully contest the allegations raised therein. The State further asserts that it could have effectively opposed the motions by arguing: 1) case no. 475-646 has been suspended since Williams filed a motion for discovery on March 5, 2008; and 2) both cases were interrupted under La. C.Cr.P. art. 579(A)(2) because it was impossible to perfect notice on Williams at the address listed on his bonds.

         Standard of review

         Trial court rulings of motions to quash are reviewed for abuse of discretion. State v. Brown, 2015-1319, p. 7 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/20/16), 193 So.3d 267, 271.

         Prescriptive period to prosecute ...


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