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Speedy Trial: How Much Time is a “Reasonable” Amount of Time for New York Prosecutors to Prepare for Trial?

A Manhattan Judicial Hearing Officer recently ruled in People v. Moustapha Diagne, that prosecutors in New York County (Manhattan) failed to adhere to speedy trial requirements set forth under the New York State Criminal Procedure Law. Therefore, the case against the defendant was dismissed. Specifically, the prosecutor did not file a “certificate of readiness” (a document declaring a prosecutor ready for trial and stopping the speedy trial clock from ticking) in a matter that was adjourned for approximately four months after motion practice ended, but before a hearing or trial commenced. Although this decision is not controlling over judges in other counties in New York State such as Westchester, Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens, it is a well thought out argument that an experienced defense attorney could add to his arsenal of weapons to attack a prosecutor’s case and defend his client.

By way of background, prosecutors are required to be ready for trial and in 90 days from arrest, less excludable time. One example of excludable time is where a defense attorney makes motions (papers filed on a defendant’s behalf to challenge evidence and the sufficiency of the criminal complaint) and a prosecutor responds to the motions. However, when a case is adjourned after motions, the law does not say precisely how much time is included or excluded within this 90 day period prior to trial.

Although there are some established cases that allow a “reasonable” amount of time for a prosecutor to prepare for trial, the Judicial Hearing Officer in Moustapha Diagne ruled that the instant case was simple and did not require extensive preparation. The Judicial Hearing Officer reasoned that two weeks should be sufficient for such preparation. Furthermore, where there is a long adjournment, as in this case multiple months, a prosecutor should file a “certificate of readiness,” or advance the case on the court calendar to start the trial. Although a two week rule is far from set in stone, an aggressive, skilled and zealous attorney advocating for your rights should site this case, when applicable to, to seek to have your case dismissed.

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