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13 Jan 2015

Domestic Battery Bites Dust

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Attorney Jeffrey Garland was retained to represent Emilio Garcia (not his real name), just after his
arrest for domestic violence. The wife is the person who actually retained Mr. Garland.
As is so often the case, police responded to the Garcia residence in Fort Pierce, Florida, on 6/20/14,
shortly after midnight. Mrs. Garcia was upset and described a verbal altercation. She would later
deny telling officers that she had been hit or pushed. The police observed no evidence of injury.
Pictures also documented the absence of injury.

Because of a prior domestic battery conviction, Mr. Garcia was looking at deportation back to
Mexico if convicted. Of course, the prosecutors were seeking jail time.

The strategy from the start was to avoid waiving speedy trial. Mr. Garcia was in jail because of an
astronomical bond. The defense sought to force the case to resolution within 90 days.

The defense announced “ready for trial” at each docket call. Finally, the State offered a “time
served” deal. Mr. Garcia rejected the plea deal and insisted on going to jury trial.

When the State failed to bring Mr. Garcia to trial within the 90-day speedy trial period, Mr. Garland
filed a “Notice of Expiration of Speedy Trial”. In response to this notice, Judge Cliff Barnes set the
case for trial on 10/7/14, which was within the 15-day recapture period.

Mrs. Garcia reported to Ft Pierce Battery Attorney Jeffrey Garland that the State vaguely threatened her with prosecution for
making a false police report. However, Mrs. Garcia was resolute in her claim that no battery took
place.

In the face of no evidence of guilt, the State was forced to free Mr. Garcia by dropping all charges
on 10/7/14, just before jury selection was to begin.

Discussion

Speedy trial is a tool which can be used to force the State to try a case or drop it. The speedy trial
period for misdemeanors is 90 days, and for felonies it is 175 days, from arrest. The State has an
additional 15 days to bring the case to trial after the defense files a notice of expiration. For many
jailed individuals, refusing to waive speedy trial is the only way out of jail. Prosecutors are happy
to hold accused individuals in jail as long as possible in order to coerce no contest pleas. The speedy
trial rule forces such prosecutors to “put up or shut up”.

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