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State v. Johnson – A13A1590 – Prisoners are entitled to speedy trials too

State v. Johnson, A13A1590, November 7th, 2013.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the Trial Court’s granting of a motion for a constitutional speedy trial after just 3 years in a case originating out of the Municipal Court of Woodstock and Cherokee County State Court.  Holly Johnson was charged with DUI in May of 2010.  An accusation was filed by the Cherokee County Solicitor in November of 2010.  A bench warrant was issued for Johnson who was in jail in another county.  In April of 2011, Johnson requested that a production order be issued so she could resolve her May 2010 DUI arrest in Cherokee County. Again in August of 2011, Johnson sent a letter from Pulaski State Prison requesting that her case be resolved or that she be produced from prison to resolve her case.  Johnson was released from Prison in September 2012.  She hired a lawyer in November 2012 and a motion for discharge and acquittal was filed in January 2013. The Trial Court ruled on her Constitutional Speedy Trial Demand in February of 2013.  A delay of one year or more is presumptively prejudicial and requires a searching inquiry into the four Barker v. Wingo factors of (i) an uncommonly long the pretrial delay; (ii) whether the government or the criminal defendant is more to blame for the delay; (iii) whether, in due course, the defendant asserted the right to a speedy trial; and (iv) whether the defendant suffered prejudice as a result of the delay. State v. Buckner, 292 Ga. 390, 391 (738 SE2d 65) (2013).

The Appellate Court found that in a Simple DUI case where the investigation is completed at the time of arrest, a delay of 2 years and 9 months is uncommonly long. The Court of Appeals rejected the State’s contention that Defendant’s incarceration in State Prison was the reason for the delay. The Court of Appeals found that the State is required to request a production order. The Appellate Court found that Defendant requested a jury trial within a few months of her arrest which satisfied the requirement of asserting a speedy trial right.  There was prejudice as she was unable to participate in some prison programs because of her pending DUI, her license suspension could have run while she was in prison, surveillance video from a store was lost and she suffered anxiety and concern for her pending DUI.

-Author: George Creal