Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Section 103-5(c) of the Illinois speedy-trial statute (725 ILCS 5/103-5(c) (West 2010)) authorizes a circuit court to continue a criminal case for "not more than an additional 60 days" to allow the State to obtain "evidence material to the case" if the State has exercised "due diligence" to obtain the evidence and "there are reasonable grounds to believe that such evidence may be obtained at a later day." In this case, the circuit court granted the State two separate continuances prior to trial under section 103-5(c) because two of the State's witnesses were, for different reasons and at different times, temporarily unavailable. The two continuances, when added together, totaled more than 60 days.
¶ 2 Following a substitution of judge, the defendant moved for dismissal of the charges against him, arguing that section 103-5(c) limited the State to not more than 60 days' continuance in total, and that when this limitation was taken into account, the statutory speedy-trial period had expired. The circuit court agreed with defendant, granted his motion and dismissed the charges against him. The appellate court affirmed. 2011 IL App (5th) 100347. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgments of the lower courts and remand this cause to the circuit court for further proceedings.
¶ 3 BACKGROUND
¶ 4 The defendant, Elijah S. Lacy, was arrested on February 8, 2009, and subsequently charged in the circuit court of Jackson County with first degree murder and home invasion. After defendant was granted several continuances, a trial date was set for February 1, 2010. Defendant remained in custody throughout the proceedings.
¶ 5 On January 25, 2010, the State filed a motion to continue pursuant to section 103-5(c) of the speedy-trial statute (725 ILCS 5/103-5(c) (West 2010)). In this motion, the State explained that Rebecca Pope, the only eyewitness to the events that gave rise to the charges against defendant, would be unable to travel from her home in Missouri to attend the scheduled trial because she was in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy and travel restrictions had been placed on her by her doctor. The motion included documentation from Pope's doctor and stated that Pope's due date was March 1, 2010. The circuit court granted the State's motion over defendant's objection and set a new trial date of April 26, 2010.
¶ 6 On April 19, 2010, the State filed a "pretrial motion regarding witness availability, " which asserted that the crime scene technician, Officer Dale Reamy of the Carbondale police department, was unavailable to testify at the scheduled trial because he had been deployed by the army reserve to Afghanistan. The motion requested the agreement of defendant to allow Lt. Paul Echols, who was present at the crime scene when evidence was collected, to testify in Reamy's stead. The motion also stated that, in the absence of defendant's agreement, the State would be forced to seek a continuance of the trial date until Reamy returned from overseas.
¶ 7 On April 23, 2010, defendant filed his own motion to continue, arguing in part that the continuance was necessary so Reamy would be available for cross-examination. The circuit court granted defendant's motion and rescheduled the trial for June 21, 2010.
¶ 8 On June 14, 2010, defendant filed a motion stating that he would not agree to the State's request that Echols be allowed to testify in place of Reamy. Consequently, the State filed a second motion requesting an extension of the speedy-trial period under section 103-5(c). In this motion, the State asserted that Reamy would be unavailable to attend the trial on the scheduled date because he would still be serving in Afghanistan. The motion further stated that Reamy would be back in the area on July 15, 2010, and would be able to testify at that time. Over defendant's objection, the circuit court granted the State's motion and rescheduled the trial for July 19, 2010. Including the continuance allowed with respect to Rebecca Pope, the two continuances granted the State under section 103-5(c) totaled more than 60 days.
¶ 9 On July 9, 2010, a different trial judge was assigned to defendant's case. On July 15, 2010, defendant filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that the statutory speedy-trial period had expired. In his motion, defendant argued that section 103-5(c) allows a total of only 60 days' continuance, regardless of the circumstances confronted by the State. The motion further alleged that the general, 120-day speedy-trial period provided under section 103-5(a) of the speedy-trial statute (725 ILCS 5/103-5(a) (West 2010)), plus the additional 60 days of continuance allowed under section 103-5(c) (a total of 180 days), had elapsed on June 26, 2010. Thus, defendant's motion contended that the statutory speedy-trial period had expired, and the case against him should be dismissed.
¶ 10 On July 19, 2010, following a hearing, the circuit court "reluctantly" granted defendant's motion. The circuit court held: "[T]he State can request multiple continuances per 103-5(c) upon proper proof of due diligence. This was done. This Court does not believe that the total of these continuances may exceed 60 days. This Court believes the total maximum time for defendant to be tried is 180 days." The circuit court determined that July 19, 2010, was the 203rd day of defendant's pretrial custody that was attributable to the State, or 23 days past the maximum permitted, in the view of the court, under the speedy-trial statute. Accordingly, the circuit court dismissed the charges and ordered defendant released from custody.
¶ 11 The State appealed, arguing that section 103-5(c) of the speedy-trial statute does not limit it to a total of 60 days' continuance. The appellate court rejected this contention, concluding that under the statute, a defendant must be brought to trial no later than 180 days after he is taken into custody. 2011 IL App (5th) 100347. We ...