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People v. Echols

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

July 18, 2018

EARL ECHOLS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 14 CR 13441 Honorable Mary C. Robert, Judge, presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE COBBS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.Justices Howse and Lavin concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Defendant, Earl Echols, appeals the denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment for aggravated driving under the influence of a controlled substance. Echols contends that he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial when the State failed to produce him for trial until one year after the offense was committed even though he was in State custody during that time. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On the evening of December 25, 2013, Echols was arrested after crashing his vehicle into a fire hydrant, several parked cars, and a building.[1] At the hospital, Echols told the investigating officers that he had "smoked some PCP and passed out." Echols was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence (DUI) of an intoxicant and appeared in court for his bond hearing the following day. On January 27, 2014, the court granted the State's motion for nolle prosequi and the misdemeanor charges were dropped. Counsel noted, during argument on the motion to dismiss, that it was unclear whether the public defender representing Echols informed him that the misdemeanor charge had been nol-prossed because the State intended to file felony charges at a later time.

         ¶ 4 Due to the misdemeanor arrest, Echols's probation from a prior offense was revoked on February 28, 2014.[2] Four days later, he was transferred from the custody of the Cook County Sheriff to the Illinois Department of Corrections. On July 28, 2014, a grand jury indicted Echols on five counts of aggravated DUI. The State sent notice of the arraignment court date to Echols's last known address. On August 11, 2014, Echols was not present for arraignment. The State requested a three-week continuance to resend notice of a new court date after indicating that a copy of the indictment letter was missing from its file. At the next hearing on September 2, 2014, Echols was still incarcerated, had not received the notices, and as such did not appear. The court issued an arrest warrant and ordered Echols's bail forfeited based on the State's representations that it had sent proper notice to him of both court dates.[3]

         ¶ 5 Echols remained in custody at Stateville Correctional Center until April 3, 2015. The day after completing his probation revocation sentence, Echols was arrested on the outstanding warrant in this case. He was arraigned on April 6, 2015, and attended a bond review hearing three days later. At the bond review hearing, the State noted for the record that standard operating procedure upon issuing a warrant includes running a computerized custody check. However, when the State ran a local, state, and federal custody check on September 2, 2014, the results failed to reveal Echols's incarceration on his probation revocation. Therefore, the court issued a $50, 000 bond and set the next court date.

         ¶ 6 On April 16, 2015, Echols filed a motion to dismiss the charges arguing that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated. The State tendered a written response the following month. On May 27, 2015, after hearing argument, the court denied the motion and proceeded to a bench trial. The bench trial was conducted over the course of two days and included testimony from two responding officers and stipulations as to the testimony of the eyewitness to the crash, the nurse who collected the DUI kit from Echols, and the forensic scientist who tested the DUI kit samples. Echols's urine tested positive for phencyclidine (PCP) and morphine. Additionally, vehicle records were entered into evidence showing that he owned the vehicle involved in the crash. The defense rested without presenting any evidence. After brief closing arguments, the court found defendant guilty on all five counts of aggravated DUI.

         ¶ 7 On October 2, 2015, the court denied Echols's motion for reconsideration or new trial and sentenced him to 18 months in the Illinois Department of Corrections with one year mandatory supervised release. The court noted that the five counts merged into one and denied Echols's oral motion to reconsider the sentence. This appeal followed.

         ¶ 8 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 9 On appeal, Echols contends that the trial court erred in refusing to dismiss the charges on constitutional speedy-trial grounds. Echols argues that the trial court should have dismissed the charges because there was a 477-day delay in prosecution, he was in State custody for a majority of that delay, the delay was not attributable to him, and he was prejudiced by the lost opportunity to serve concurrent sentences. The State responds that the record does not support finding a 477-day delay, the delay was caused by the State's reasonable belief that Echols was not in custody, and that Echols suffered no prejudice from the delay.

         ¶10 Both the federal and state constitutions guarantee the right to a speedy trial. See U.S. Const., amend. VI; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 8. The sixth amendment right to a speedy trial in the federal constitution is fundamental and is applicable to the states by the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. See Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213 (1967). We note that, although there is a statutory right to a speedy trial in Illinois (see 725 ILCS 5/103-5 (West 2014)), Echols only alleges a violation of his constitutional right.

         ¶ 11 Our supreme court has adopted the four-factor balancing test outlined in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530 (1972), for considering whether a defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated. People v. Bazzell, 68 Ill.2d 177, 182 (1977). To determine whether a violation has occurred, we must balance (1) the length of delay, (2) the reason for the delay, (3) the defendant's assertion of his right, and (4) prejudice to the defendant. Barker, 407 U.S. at 530. No single factor is regarded as "a necessary or sufficient condition to the finding of a deprivation of the right of speedy trial." Id. at 533. All the factors are related and must be considered along with other relevant circumstances in assessing whether a defendant's fundamental right to a speedy trial has been violated. Id. "[T]he ultimate determination of whether a defendant's constitutional speedy-trial right has been violated is subject to de novo review." People v. Crane, 195 Ill.2d 42, 52 (2001). However, we will uphold the trial court's factual determinations unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. Id. at 51. Here, the facts are undisputed, and we review the matter de novo.

         ¶ 12 A. Length of Delay

         ¶ 13 The parties disagree on the length of time Echols was deprived of a speedy trial and whether the delay was sufficient to raise a constitutional question. Echols argues he suffered 477 days of delay from the offense date to the date he filed his motion to dismiss.[4] The State contends that the delay was no more than 250 days commencing from either the issuance of the indictment or the arrest warrant to Echols's actual arrest on that warrant.[5] To resolve this disagreement, we must determine the effect of nol-prossing charges on a defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial.

         ¶ 14 1. The Effect of Nolle Prosequi

         ¶ 15 Echols contends that the six-month delay between the State's motion to nol-pros the misdemeanor charges and the subsequent felony indictment must be considered as a delay affecting his right to a speedy trial. The State responds that the speedy-trial right accrued either when Echols was formally indicted on felony charges or when the arrest warrant was issued.

         ¶ 16 "The right to a speedy trial guaranteed by the sixth amendment (U.S. Const., amend. VI) applies only within 'the confines of a formal criminal prosecution,' that is, once a defendant has been arrested or charged." People v. Totzke, 2012 IL App (2d) 110823, ¶ 19 (quoting Doggett v. United States,505 U.S. 647, 655, (1992)). Thus, the right to a speedy trial does not accrue until the defendant is accused. United States v. Marion,404 U.S. 307, 320 (1971); People v. Mitchell,356 Ill.App.3d 158, 161 (2005). It is the actual restraint imposed on a defendant's liberty by arrest, formal indictment or information, and holding ...

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