Thursday, July 30, 2009

People v. Wagner (Cal. Ct. App. - July 21, 2009)

What the heck's going on in Riverside County?!

We all know about the desperate backlog there. That's a given. I've also seen a plethora of dismissal cases come up to the Court of Appeal as a result. Same old same old. You've got a time limit. Bring 'em to trial or dismiss. You can always refile (at least once).

Here's yet another one. But with a twist. Here, the Riverside District Attorney's Office files an appeal. And loses, of course. Since, indeed, there were no courtrooms available.

But guess what? Since the DA's Office filed the appeal, rather than merely refiling, they're now barred from refiling the charges against the defendant. So he goes off scot-free.

Did the Riverside DA really not know about this? Is there any reason for not filing a writ instead, which the Court of Appeal expressly notes (in footnote 15) would have been equally effective to challenge the dismissal without resulting in precluding refiled charges? Moreover, of the hundreds of criminal cases in which the charges were dismissed due to the lack of a courtroom, did the Riverside DA really have to choose to file an appeal -- with the resulting preclusion -- in a serious case like this one (here, a shooting with a semiautomatic firearm with great bodily injury) rather than the plethora of lower-level cases involving nearly identical facts?

This seems not-especially-thought-out to me. Maybe I'm missing something. I certainly hope so. Because I really don't see the reason why this defendant needed to be let of scot-free as a result of the DA's decision here.