U.S. v. Richarson, No. 14-1901

In this case, due to a federal detainer the defendant was indicted on a felony charge of being in possession of both firearms and illegal possession of a submachine gun following receiving time served on state charges. United States v. Richardson, 780 F.3d 812, 814 (2015). The defendant motioned to dismiss on speedy trial grounds and was denied by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, then the defendant pled guilty and appealed. United States v. Richardson, 780 F.3d 812, 815 (2015).

The United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit recently ruled on the issue of whether the Speedy Trial clocks begins to run when a federal complaint and detainer are served on an individual who is being prosecuted by the state and also, in custody of the state. United States v. Richardson, 780 F.3d 812, 813 (2015). The Court ruled that the clock would not start to run when a federal complaint is filed, only when a federal charging document, such as an information or indictment is filed. The Court reasoned that a “complaint, affidavit, probable cause, and detainer (documents at issue in this case), even in combination are not equivalent of an indictment or information.” Id.

The complaint in this case was signed and sworn by an agent of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, stated a date of the possession of firearms by a convicted felon, the defendant. United States v. Richardson, 780 F.3d 812, 814 (2015). The Court ruled that this did not constitute an indictment or information that would lead to the beginning of the Speedy Trial clock, but “signals an investigation rather than a prosecution.” Id. Along with the complaint, “no more does an affidavit in support of a search warrant kick off a prosecution.” United States v. Alvarado, 440 F.3d at 200 (2006).  The purpose of a detainer is to “merely inform the jail that a person held there is wanted on other criminal charges and the jail should therefore notify the agency that issues the detainer of the prisoner’s imminent release, so that the agency can arrest him.” United States v. Richardson, 780 F.3d 812, 814 (2015).

The Court finds that “to hold that the clock began to run upon the commencement of the state proceeding against the defendant, on the theory that he was in effect officially accused of a federal as well as a state crime, would be a messy clash of governments with no likely benefit to the defendant.” United States v. Richardson, 780 F.3d 812, 816 (2015). Had the true purpose of a detainer and complaint been disregarded and the speedy-trial clock began at these moments, “the U.S. Attorney would have been under pressure to indict Richardson forwith and proceed with all deliberate speed to a trial”. Id. Doing so, the defendant would have had to deal with two different prosecutions by “two sovereign entities, at the same time.” Id.

Finally, the Court resolves that even if the “speedy-trial clock began to tick with respect to federal prosecution when the federal complaint, affidavit of probably cause, and detainer were filed, there would still be no violation of the Sixth Amendment, (because) the right to a speedy trial is not absolute; it yields in the face of compelling circumstances.” United States v. Richardson, 780 F.3d 812, 817 (2015).

Thus, the judgment of the district judge was affirmed.

By:  Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Michael J. Petro

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