Coronavirus and 30.30 Speedy Trial Time in New York
Today in New York the question I am most asked by clients is about is Coronavirus 30.30 Speedy Trial time. In other words, will Coronavirus affect the 30.30 Speedy Trial time of a criminal case. The short answer is probably not. The Speedy Trial clock stopped running on March 17, 2020, for the foreseeable future.
In a situation like the Coronavirus lockdown, there are three ways that the Speedy Trial time of Criminal Procedure Law 30.30 may stop running:
- Administrative Delay By The Courts
- Exceptional Circumstances under CPL Section 30.30(4)(g)
- Executive Order of the Governor
On March 15, 2020, the New York State Office of Court Administration (“OCA”) announced that as of Tuesday March 17, 2020, all cases where a defendant is not being held in on bail would be Administratively Adjourned. Based on my clients’ cases that were scheduled for the week of March 16, the cases were adjourned between 60 and 90 days in the future. So, how do the adjournments due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) affect the 30.30 Speedy Trial time in cases?
The Speedy Trial time limits in Criminal Procedure Law (“CPL”) Section 30.30 will not run over the period that cases are Administratively Adjourned. For example, at least one case in New York City Criminal Court, New York County, law supports that the idea that when the People have answered ready and if the case is then Administratively Adjourned to a future date, then the 30.30 Speedy Trial clock will not during the adjournment.
However, even if the 30.30 Speedy Trial clock were running prior to March 17, 2020, the Exceptional Circumstances provision of CPL Section 30.30(4)(g) will likely stop the Speedy Trial clock. According to OCA, on March 15, courts across New York State were closed except for defendants who are incarcerated on bail. More important, the OCA announcement stated that no trial would commence until further notice. If no trials are allowed to commence a Court would likely find that 30.30 Speedy Trial time would not count because of Exceptional Circumstances provision under CPL 30.30(4)(g).
The current situation with Coronavirus 30.30 Speedy Trial Time resembles the operation of the courts immediately following Hurricane Sandy and September 11, 2001. Courts have held that the closure of courts due to Hurricane Sandy qualified as Exceptional Circumstance under CPL 30.30(4)(g), which stops the Speedy Trial clock.
The third way Coronavirus (COVID-19) could impact 30.30 Speedy Trial Time is if the governor issues an Executive Order to suspend Speedy Trial as Governor George Pataki did immediately after September 11, 2001. Courts throughout the state were not in agreement about the meaning of the suspension of Speedy Trial time. Governor Pataki’s order was in effect from September 11 and October 12, 2001.
Governor Cuomo also issued an Executive Order to suspend Speedy Trial time immediately after Hurricane Sandy for New York City, Long Island and upstate counties from Westchester to Duchess.. The suspension lasted from October 26 to November 25, 2012. If Governor Cuomo were to issue an Executive Order it would depend on the wording of the suspension. In 2012, the language of the Executive Order read:
I hereby temporarily suspend, for the period from the date of this Executive Order until further notice, the following laws  Sections 30.10 and 30.30 of the Criminal Procedure Law, so far as they may bar criminal prosecutions brought in Bronx, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester Counties, in cases whose limitation periods conclude during the period commencing from the date . . . until further notice.
The important phrase is “whose limitation periods conclude during the period [of suspension].” Courts held that the 30.30 Speedy Trial time was not stopped for cases where it expired after the suspension, which lasted about one month, ended. Still, Courts applied the Exceptional Circumstances exception under CPL 30.30(4)(g) during the period that courts were closed following Hurricane Sandy. If the Speedy Trial time would elapse when the suspension was in effect, then period of overlapping with the suspension did not count towards 30.30 Speedy Trial time. But, again, Exceptional Circumstances may apply.
In sum, in New York, Coronavirus 30.30 Speedy Trial Time is stopped in criminal cases because of the closure of courts. Even if courts reopen Speedy Trial time may not start on certain cases if the governor issues an Executive Order or if there are other Exceptional Circumstances. Speedy Trial for the time being may be like T.S. Eliot’s Burnt Norton: Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future/And time future contained in time past/If all time is eternally present/All time is unredeemable.