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People in the Interest of C.M.W.R.

2024 COA 4. No. 22CA0925. Juvenile Delinquency—Adjudicatory Proceedings—Speedy Trial Right—Continuance Granted Without Defendant’s Consent—Unavailability of Evidence Material to State’s Case.

January 11, 2024

C.M.W.R., a juvenile, was charged with one count of criminal mischief, one count of first-degree arson, and one count of second-degree burglary in connection with a fire set at a church that resulted in damages of more than $1 million. C.M.W.R. pleaded not guilty and requested that the court set a bench trial within the speedy trial deadline, which was November 26, 2021, a date during Thanksgiving week. The trial court set the trial date for November 22, 2021, but the prosecutor then requested a continuance of the trial date due to witness unavailability. C.M.W.R. objected to the continuance request and asserted their right to a speedy trial. The court continued C.M.W.R.’s bench trial, which ultimately began on February 14, 2022, 141 days after entry of the not guilty plea. At the trial’s conclusion, the court adjudicated C.M.W.R. delinquent on all counts.

On appeal, C.M.W.R. argued that their statutory and constitutional speedy trial rights were violated when the court set the trial past the 60-day speedy trial deadline, because the prosecutor’s argument for a continuance lacked necessary specificity on the materiality of the unavailable witnesses’ anticipated testimony. C.M.W.R. maintained that the court failed to apply CRS § 18-1-405(6)(g), while the People contended there was no speedy trial violation because the court satisfied the CRS § 19-2.5-904(3) general good cause standard. The court of appeals held that there is no inconsistency between the general good cause language in CRS § 19-2.5-904(3) and the factors in CRS § 18-1-405(6)(g) that address when a continuance entered without the defendant’s consent stops the speedy trial clock from running. Therefore, the court further held that the standard for continuing a trial without the defendant’s consent set forth in CRS § 18-1-405(6)(g) applies to requests for continuances in adjudicatory actions against juveniles, so a court must consider the § 18-1-405(6)(g) factors when determining whether a prosecutor’s continuance in this situation would violate the juvenile’s speedy trial rights. Here, the record shows that the prosecutor did not establish, and the court did not find, that evidence material to the prosecutor’s case was unavailable as required by § 18-1-405(6)(g)(I). The court thus erred by continuing C.M.W.R.’s trial past the 60-day speedy trial deadline without C.M.W.R.’s consent. Further, under People v. Taylor, 2020 COA 79, ¶ 18, the remedy for a speedy trial violation is dismissal of the charges with prejudice.

The judgment was vacated and the case was remanded with instructions to dismiss the charges.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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