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Dickerson v. Superior Court (The People)

Superior Court of California, Appellate Division, Alameda

August 5, 2019

Dominique Dickerson, Petitioner,
v.
The Superior Court of Alameda County, Respondent The People, Real Party in Interest. Ivory Maron Buggs, Petitioner,
v.
The Superior Court of Alameda County, Respondent; The People, Real Party in Interest.

          Super. Ct. Nos. 18-CR-005965, 18-CR-01321, Hon. Keith Fudenna Hon. Richard Keller Hon. Amy Sekany Hon; Dan Grimmer Hon. Jason Chin Hon. Jenna M. Whitman Hon. Clifford Blakely, Hon. Amy Sekany Hon. Jason Chin Hon. Victoria Kolakowski Hon. Clifford Blakely, Trial Court Judges.

          People of the State of California, Real Party in Interest Christopher Chin, Deputy District Attorney John Mifsud, Deputy District Attorney James Logan, Deputy District Attorney

          Dominique Dickerson, Petitioner Omid Khalilnaj i, Assistant Public Defender Michelle Queirolo, Assistant Public Defender David Carlisle, Assistant Public Defender Palden Ukyab, Assistant Public Defender

          People of the State of California, Real Party in Interest Christopher Chin, Deputy District Attorney John Mifsud, Deputy District Attorney Briggitte Lowe, Deputy District Attorney Jessica Serrato, Deputy District Attorney Luis Marin, Deputy District Attorney

          Ivory Maron Buggs, Petitioner Palden Ukyab, Assistant Public Defender Sung Kim, Assistant Public Defender Paul Michael Foster, Assistant Public Defender

          OPINION

          MARKMAN, P.J.

         Petitioners contend that delays in charging each of them resulted in a deprivation of due process rights under the California Constitution. In both cases, the trial court found that Petitioners suffered prejudice due to the prosecution’s delays in charging them. The trial court then erred in failing to require competent evidence justifying the delay by the prosecution.

         Evidence is at the core of our system of justice – even in the hurly-burly of a misdemeanor pretrial department. The failure to require at least some modicum of evidence to support the People’s argument marred the trial court’s analysis of Petitioners’ claims. We therefore grant the Petitions for Writ of Mandate. We vacate the trial court’s orders denying the motions to dismiss and remand both cases so that the trial court can properly consider both motions in their entirety.

         Facts

         People v. Buggs

         In the early morning hours of October 26, 2017, California Highway Patrol officers arrested Ivory Maron Buggs for driving under the influence of alcohol and for driving on a suspended license. Officers observed Buggs driving a white Buick sedan at an estimated 70 miles per hour on 98th Avenue in Oakland, and watched him cross solid double yellow lines on his travels. After stopping Buggs, officers noted the strong smell of alcohol coming from inside the car. And Buggs could not provide his driver’s license, registration, or insurance. Back at the jail, Buggs’ breath-test results at 3:23 and 3:26 in the morning both indicated a blood alcohol content of 0.14 percent.

         On August 9, 2018 – 287 days later – the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office notified Buggs that it had filed a criminal complaint against him. The complaint alleged counts for driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a 0.08 percent or higher blood alcohol level, and driving with a suspended license. (Veh. Code § 23152(a), (b), & 14601.1.)

         Buggs filed a motion to dismiss based on pre-accusation delay. The trial court grappled with whether Buggs suffered any actual prejudice as a result of the delay. (See Ibarra v. Municipal Court (1984) 162 Cal.App.3d 853, 857.) Buggs argued that his memory of the events of October 26, 2017 had faded. He could no longer recall whether he was speeding before he was detained. He also argued that he could no longer recall how the officers conducted field sobriety tests. The trial court explained that, given the driving under the influence count (section 23152(a)), “whether or not he’s speeding may or may not come into play on that. I think there is a minimal showing here. It’s weak, believe me, but Ibarra didn’t require much else.”

         After hearing live testimony from Mr. Buggs concerning his memory, the trial court held:

         In viewing this in the context of Ibarra v. Municipal Court, I will acknowledge that even the initial proffer of what the actual prejudice might be is weak. I don’t know that Mr. Buggs helped himself at all on the witness stand just now in terms of bolstering that showing of prejudice. He claims he has impaired memory, given the passage of time of the driving prior to the contact of the police officers, yet he remembers having two beers. He remembers his fiancée being with him in the right front passenger seat. And he remembers Sylvester Williams as not being there but coming later to come get the car. So he’s got specific references, specific points that he does remember.

         But, again, going back to what Ibarra says, and in that particular case, the defendant was charged with a 647(a) [lewd acts in public]. He was arrested some 13 months later, claimed prejudice, and that he did remember the details of the conversations he had with law enforcement, that although the opinion is relatively light on facts, presumably led or tied him in some way to the 647(a). The trial judge in that particular court found no actual prejudice and was reversed by the appellate court, saying that even a showing like that in Ibarra, however minimal, was enough to shift the burden. So with that being the standard, I will find that Mr. Buggs has made, such as it is, a showing of actual prejudice sufficient to shift the burden.

         The trial court then sought information from the People concerning the justification for the nearly ten-month delay. The deputy district attorney responded:

         I mean, that just goes to our office, this county, and how many cases go through our office. We looked this up during the lunch hour, and I believe last year, which I think is a good reflection of the previous year, we reviewed 41,000 cases that came through our office from the different police departments. Out of those 41,000, we charged 8,900 felonies, 21,000 misdemeanors, 4,000 felony [probation violations], and 8,300 misdemeanor [probation violations]. Our office obviously has 150 attorneys, but only 10 or 12 of them are reviewing cases at one time for charging. The number that we came up with is about 3,100 cases reviewed per year per DA in order for charging. That, obviously, doesn’t take into account the police departments themselves who obviously are coming in with several arrests and need to bring those cases over to us for charging, especially CHP, which was one of the bigger agencies in this county with all the DUI arrests that they have.

         So our justification is that, unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast of Alameda County and our office and how many cases we have to review. Obviously, we reviewed it within the statute of limitations. And I think that’s our number one goal. That was about a 10-month delay. But with the ...


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