Criminal       

Natalie Laflamme
Associate at Sulloway & Hollis in Concord practicing civil litigation
Copyright 2017 Robert C Strong II

No. 2017-0569
Nov. 28, 2018
Affirmed.

  • Whether a defendant is “brought to trial” for the purposes of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (RSA chapter 606-A) when a jury is selected.

The defendant appealed his conviction arguing that his trial was not brought within the time frame required under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD). The defendant was indicted in New Hampshire while he was incarcerated in Vermont for an unrelated matter. He filed a request for final disposition under the IAD, see RSA 606-A:1, III(a), which required the State to start his trial within 180 days of receipt of the request. The defendant’s request was received on January 17, 2017. Jury selection was held on July 10 – within 180 days.

On appeal, both parties agreed that January 17 was the commencement date of the 180-day period. Therefore, the only issue before the Court was whether the defendant was “brought to trial” for purposes of the IAD when the jury was selected on July 10, 2017. The Court disagreed with the defendant’s argument that his case had not been “brought to trial” within the time period required by the IAD because the phrase refers to the proceedings that follow jury selection, such as calling witnesses, hearing evidence, and the resolution of the case. The defendant’s argument relied in part on the meaning of “trial” in the context of double jeopardy, where a criminal trial does not commence until a jury is empaneled and sworn. The Court noted, however, that courts have acknowledged that other rights attach before then, and that jury selection is a critical point in many respects. The Court also recognized that the protections and principles of the IAD are distinct from double jeopardy.

The Court instead held that there were substantial similarities between the IAD and the Speedy Trial Act (STA), 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161 et seq., such that they should be consistently interpreted. It noted that while federal courts have not yet determined when a defendant has been “brought to trial” for purposes of the IAD, the majority of circuit courts, as well as the only other state to address the issue, have decided that under the STA, a trial commences when the jury is empaneled, even if not sworn. Therefore, the Court concluded that the defendant’s trial commenced within the period required under the IAD.

 

Gordon J. MacDonald, attorney general (Stephen D. Fuller, senior assistant attorney general), for the State.  Eric S. Wolpin, assistant appellate defender, Concord, for the defendant.