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Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.

State v. Rivera, 83 P.3d 169 (Kan. 2004).

This case answers the following question:

How quick do I get to have my preliminary hearing?

The issue in this case is how quickly does one get to have a preliminary hearing. Instead of automatically dismissing the felony charges, when the preliminary hearing is not held within ten days after the defendant is arrested or personally appears, the court must consider the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated, and if the court concludes that the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated, it must dismiss the charges against him or her.

In this case, Rivera was arrested after fleeing from an officer who was executing a search warrant. Two days later, the sheriff served a warrant on Rivera charging him with one count of aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, and theft. Rivera made his first appearance the same day and was appointed counsel. Rivera’s preliminary hearing was set for ten days later, but the district court did not conduct the preliminary hearing until nearly seven months later. Rivera remained in custody for the entire seven months, except for a ten-day period when he escaped from custody. Three days before his preliminary hearing, Rivera filed a motion to dismiss, stating that he had been prejudiced by the delay between his arrest and his preliminary hearing. A hearing date for Rivera’s motion was never set, and the motion was not discussed at the preliminary hearing. The trial court found Rivera guilty, convicting him of aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, and aggravated assault. Rivera appealed the convictions, and the Court of Appeals reversed the convictions and dismissed the charges against him due to the delay in conducting his preliminary hearing. However, another panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions, finding that the delay before his preliminary hearing was substantial, but that it did not prejudice Rivera’s rights.

Instead of automatically dismissing the felony charges, when the preliminary hearing is not held within ten days after the defendant is arrested or personally appears, the court must consider the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated, and if the court concludes that the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated, it must dismiss the charges against him or her. To evaluate whether a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to speedy trial has been violated, Kansas applies the four factors set out in the Baker case: (1) length of delay, (2) reason for the delay, (3) defendant’s assertion of his or her right, and (4) prejudice to the defendant. No single factor is sufficient to support a violation on its own, instead the court must consider all four factors together along with any other relevant circumstances.

The court found that the length of the delay was presumptively prejudicial, but that alone is not enough to determine whether the charges must be dismissed. The court determined that Rivera was partially responsible for the delay, and therefore, the reasons for the delay were weighted equally for both Rivera and the State. River’s escape from custody was partially responsible for the delay. The court found that Rivera failed to assert his right to a speedy trial. Even though he filed a motion to dismiss, Rivera made minimal attempts to follow up with his motion and escaped from custody. When looking at the prejudice to the defendant, the court found that given Rivera’s criminal history and ineligibility for bond, Rivera did not suffer oppressive pretrial incarceration or anxiety. Rivera claimed his defense was impaired because some of the witnesses could not remember the events. However, as noted earlier, Rivera was responsible in part for the delay in his trial. Therefore, the court held that there was no prejudice to Rivera as a result of the delay before his preliminary hearing.

The Supreme Court of Kansas held that Rivera’s rights were not violated. Therefore, the Court of Appeals erred when it dismissed Rivera’s charges for failure to hold a timely preliminary hearing. The Supreme Court of Kansas reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed the judgment of the district court.

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