Recently Division II of the Washington Court of Appeals decided the case of State v. Shale, which determined that the speedy trial rule can essentially be put on hold if the prosecutor has acted "reasonably."
Here's how the Court summarized the facts:
On February 15, 2012, Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon M. Przygocki arrested Shale on suspicion of DUI. On February 16, 2012, the district court arraigned Shale on a gross misdemeanor DUI charge, and she remained in custody.
On March 16, 2012, the State asked that the court not set a trial date because the parties were discussing a plea. The district court then set a hearing, but not trial, for April 4, 2012.
On April 4, 2012, Shale wanted to enter a guilty plea to the misdemeanor charges but the State refused to make a plea offer based on those charges because it was investigating whether it should instead charge a felony DUI based on her criminal history from another jurisdiction. The district court continued the hearing to April 11, 2012, at which time the court issued another week's continuance because the other jurisdiction had not responded to the State's request for information.On April 16, 2012, the State charged Shale with felony DUI in superior court. That same day, the district court held a hearing on its misdemeanor DUI charge, at which time the State moved to dismiss that charge. Shale objected to the dismissal and stated that she was prepared to enter a guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge.The district court advised that the time for trial period "likely expires today."
The Criminal Rule governing speedy trials is CrR 3.3(a)(5), which states: "The computation of the allowable time for trial of a pending charge shall apply equally to all related charges." "Related charge" is defined as "a charge based on the same conduct as the pending charge that is ultimately file[d] in the superior court." CrR 3.3(a)(3)(ii).
Courts have previously ruled that Where multiple charges stem from the same criminal conduct, the time for trial period begins on the date the defendant was held to answer on the first of these charges.
But here the Court ruled that the time for trial would start over even though they were the same prosecutors office and the same jurisdiction (since superior court has jurisdiction over district court matters too).
The reason here was that the prosecutors were still investigating the out of jurisdiction prior DUIs to discover if Ms. Shale qualified for the felony level charge. In Washington the felony DUI statute requires four prior DUI convictions within ten years. DUI charges reduced to other charges can qualify as priors.
The case is State v. Shale and was filed on September 4, 2013, at Division II of the Court of Appeals. The decision was not published and so it can't be cited as authority.