Court of Appeals Issues Landmark Criminal Rule 4 Decision

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For any defense attorney that practices criminal law around the State of Indiana, there are unique differences to each County, especially when it comes to how quickly they receive discovery. Often, some of the State’s busiest counties experience significant delays in providing discovery. The classic examples are an OVWI case where the State takes more than a year to provide lab results, or a shooting case where the State takes more than a year to provide ballistics testing results. Indiana Criminal Rule 4, in its most basic form, requires the State to bring a criminal Defendant to trial within one year of arrest, or the charges being filed, whichever is later. The State is relieved of this requirement when the Defendant requests a continuance.

Until recently, the criminal Defendant has been required to request continuance, or face the threat of going to trial without receiving full discovery. On May 10, 2023, the Indiana Court of Appeals put a stop to this in its landmark opinion Wellman v. State, 210 N.E.3d 811 (Ind. Ct. App. 2023). Wellman was facing OVWI charges. Defense counsel requested numerous continuances due to the fact that the State had not provided blood test results. After 13 months of waiting for test results, Wellman moved for dismissal pursuant to Indiana Criminal Rule 4. The Trial Court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals noted “In so doing, the court effectively faulted Wellman for having to choose between his right to prepare a defense and his right to a speedy trial.”

The Court further recognized that Criminal Rule 4(D) allows the State a 90-day extension if the State can show that 1) reasonable efforts were made to procure the evidence and 2) the evidence could be procured within 90 days. However, if the State is granted this extension and still fails to provide the outstanding evidence by the expiration of the 90 days, then the Defendant shall be discharged. In Wellman’s case, the State made no attempt to utilize Criminal Rule 4(D).

If you are a criminal Defendant who feels that their case has been unfairly delayed by the State’s failure to provide evidence, give the attorneys at Banks and Brower a call 24/7 at (317) 870-0019.