After an incident, it might be weeks, months, or even years before prosecutors bring formal charges against a defendant. In State v. Banks, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a complaint can be dismissed under Rule 30.02 of the Minnesota Criminal Rules of Procedure if the prosecutors unnecessarily delayed in bringing those charges.
In order to have a case dismissed for pre-charge delay, a defendant must show that they were prejudiced or harmed by the delay. In Barker v. Wingo, the Supreme Court outlined three factors in determining prejudice:
1. Preventing oppressive pretrial incarceration
An individual may be prejudiced by having to endure time in jail while waiting to be charged. Time spent in jail awaiting trial is often detrimental to an individual, leading to the loss of a job, disrupting family life, and being forced into idleness with little to no recreational activities. Barker at 532.
2. Minimizing the anxiety and concern of the accused
Even if a person is not incarcerated prior to being charged, “he is still disadvantaged by restraints on his liberty and by living under a cloud of anxiety, suspicion, and often hostility.” Barker at 533. Criminal charges are serious and stressful allegations that affect peoples’ daily lives. When prosecutors delay in bringing charges, an individual is constantly facing stress and anxiety from the possibility of prison time and the affect criminal proceedings will have on their job and family life.
3. Preventing the possibility that the defense will be impaired
In any criminal case, a person has the right to prepare a defense. Often times, this includes collecting evidence and calling witnesses to testify. By the time prosecutors have formally charged a defendant, a significant amount of time may have passed. Witnesses may have died or forgotten important details about the incident, and critical evidence may not be preserved or accessible. “The inability of a defendant adequately to prepare his case skews the fairness of the entire system.” Barker at 532.
While prosecutors are not expected to file charges immediately, an unnecessary delay that causes prejudice based on any of the above factors could be grounds for dismissal of your criminal case. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us for a consultation at no cost.