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DA's Office files appeal in felony assault case dismissed by the court

COUNTYWIDE – The Riverside County DA’s Office has filed an appeal with the California 4th District Court of Appeal in the case of People v. Tapia, a felony assault with personal use of a weapon - a machete - which caused great bodily injury to the victim.

 

On Oct. 26, the DA’s Office announced ready to begin the trial of Jose Luis Tapia. However, the court stated that there were no available courtrooms to begin the trial. The next day, Oct. 27, the case was dismissed by the court for violation of a statutory speedy trial under Penal Code section 1382. Our office opposed the decision and argued that the unavailability of a courtroom was caused by COVID-19. We requested a short continuance until a trial courtroom would become available. The court found that the delay was not caused by the pandemic, and therefore had no good cause and dismissed the case. Prior to the pandemic, the court had not dismissed a case for lack of courtrooms available in more than a decade.

 

“My prosecutors stand ready to try cases at any time. The people of Riverside County deserve the same service of justice from the courts,” said DA Mike Hestrin. “We are asking the judges to engage with the facts of the cases and the backlog. Our office is appealing these decisions to our appellate courts and the California Supreme Court as necessary.”

 

On Oct. 28, the DA’s Office filed both an emergency writ and a notice of appeal on the Tapia case. A writ was filed to request immediate relief. However, a writ is discretionary, and it can be denied without the discussion of merit. The appeal process can take several months to conclude. 

 

The Constitution and California State Law guarantee a criminal defendant with the right to a speedy trial.  However, Penal Code section 1382 does not require dismissal when good cause exists to continue a trial beyond the statutory deadlines. The California Appellate Courts have held that a backlog of trial cases caused by the pandemic is good cause to continue a trial.

 

The appeal in case BLF210023 was filed by Deputy District Attorneys Emily Hanks and Jesse Male of the DA’s Writs and Appeals Unit.

 

On Oct. 10, 2022, Riverside County Superior Court judges began dismissing criminal cases based on a lack of available trial courtrooms. These cases range from misdemeanor to felony cases and include all crime types. To date, the court has dismissed more than 350 criminal court cases.

 

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Author: Amy McKenzie
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