Arizona Defendant Loses Appeal in Case Involving Substantial Delays

In a recent case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant argued that his motion to dismiss should have been granted by the lower court. Apparently, the court had originally scheduled the defendant to come in for a hearing regarding alleged violations of the terms of his probation. Because of significant delays, however, the defendant argued that the lower court should have vacated the hearing altogether. Ultimately, the higher court disagreed with the defendant and denied the appeal.

Facts of the Case

Twelve years ago, the defendant in this case pled guilty to burglary, theft, and criminal damage. After the defendant’s guilty plea, the court sentenced the defendant to time in prison and placed him on a five-year probation term upon his release. During this probation period, the defendant ran into trouble when he was criminally charged with trespassing and refusing to leave his ex-girlfriend’s property. He was arrested again a year later for smuggling undocumented individuals into the U.S.

Given these charges, the State asked the court to revoke the defendant’s probation. The court scheduled a hearing to review the terms of the defendant’s probation, but the hearing did not actually happen until two years after the original hearing was scheduled. When the hearing finally occurred, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the hearing had been unreasonably delayed. The court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and he promptly appealed.

The Decision

The court reviewed the defendant’s appeal and agreed that the hearing had been substantially delayed – two years went by between the scheduling of the hearing and the hearing itself. However, said the court, the delays were because the defendant and his attorney continued to request that the hearing be moved to a later date. On five different occasions, the defendant had filed motions to continue. On several other occasions, COVID-19 prevented the court from convening, which the higher court considered to be a reasonable reason for a delay.

Because the State was prepared for each hearing and because the court was also ready to hear from the parties on each of the scheduled dates, the higher court decided the motion to dismiss was rightfully denied. It would be unfair, said the court, if the defendant was allowed to request continuances, then request a dismissal when the court ultimately granted those continuances.

The lower court’s ruling was affirmed.

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