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State v. Moreau

October 24, 1995

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STUART MOREAU, DEFENDANT.



J. L. Fuentes, J.s.c.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fuentes

J. L. Fuentes, J.S.C.

This case presents a novel question of construction of New Jersey's version of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers ("IAD"). Under the Agreement, which is codified at N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-1 to -15, a prisoner in one party state *fn1 (known as the "sending state") can make a request for final Disposition of an untried indictment, information or complaint upon which a detainer has been filed against that prisoner in another party state (known as the ("receiving state"). N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-2, -3(a). If the state in which the detainer has been filed does not bring the prisoner to trial within 180 days from the date of its notice of the prisoner's request, the Agreement directs the court to enter an order dismissing, with prejudice, the untried indictment, information or complaint. N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-3(d). The issue to be decided is whether the court can dismiss the untried indictment underlying the detainer before the 180-day period has run when the State has declared its intention not to bring the matter to trial within the requisite 180-day period.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In this case, movant, Stuart Moreau, *fn2 was arrested in New Jersey on May 18, 1994, and charged with obstructing governmental operations. Movant, who was already the subject of a warrant that had been issued by authorities in New York, posted bail and, after waiving extradition, was taken to New York on July 21, 1994, to face charges there. He has remained in custody in New York since that date.

On May 11, 1995, while movant was in custody in New York, a warrant was issued by a New Jersey court to serve as a detainer on movant. *fn3 Movant requested final Disposition of his untried New Jersey indictment on July 13, 1995, and the State received official notice of this request by July 19, 1995, thus triggering the 180-day period in which to bring movant to trial. N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-3(a). *fn4 Since that time the State has refused to extradite defendant or otherwise to facilitate the Disposition of his untried offense. In response, movant has filed a motion to dismiss the untried New Jersey indictment, claiming that the State is acting in constructive violation of the IAD.

LEGAL ANALYSIS

As a preliminary matter, this court must find that movant has complied with all of the procedural requirements specified in Article III of the IAD in order to entertain a challenge on the merits of the case. N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-3. Generally, courts have required strict compliance with the notice provisions of Article III. State v. Hoimes, 214 N.J. Super. 195, 203, 518 A.2d 773 (App. Div. 1986); Nash v. Jeffes, 739 F.2d 878, 884 (3d Cir. 1984), rev'd on other grounds, 473 U.S. 716, 105 S. Ct. 3401, 87 L. Ed. 2d 516 (1985). However, if movant's failure to comply strictly with Article III results from administrative error or mistake on the part of the sending or receiving state, substantial compliance will suffice. State v. Hoimes, supra, 214 N.J. Super. at 203; U.S. v. Reed, 910 F.2d 621, 624 (9th Cir. 1990).

The court finds that movant strictly complied with the dictates of Article III. His request for final Disposition was accompanied by the appropriate certificate from the superintendent of the correctional facility in which movant is incarcerated, *fn5 and the record shows that the superintendent sent the request and accompanying papers to the Clerk of the Superior Court of Hudson County by certified mail as required. N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-3(a). Furthermore, the State has not challenged any aspect of movant's compliance with IAD procedure. Lastly, the court finds that movant has been and is able to stand trial, so there has been no tolling of the 180-day time period in which the State must bring him to trial. See N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-6. *fn7 Therefore, the court will now consider the merits of movant's claim.

Movant's claim presents an issue of first impression to this jurisdiction; namely, may the court dismiss the untried indictment underlying a detainer before the 180-day period for trying that indictment has expired, when the State has indicated its unequivocal intent not to prosecute this matter until movant is released from his New York prison term on July 22, 1997. Movant argues that the State, by declaring its intention not to request the production of the defendant within the 180-day period, has constructively violated the IAD and is, in effect, "thumbing its nose at the Agreement. Despite the fact that movant's liberty is already severely curtailed by virtue of his present incarceration in New York, he argues that he has suffered and continues to suffer real prejudice as a result of the detainer, and so the court must dismiss the indictment in light of the State's apparent refusal to prosecute. The State, on the other hand, maintains that its failure to extradite movant and schedule the indictment for trial does not place it outside of the boundaries of the IAD while the 180-day time limit has yet to expire. *fn8

Any consideration of movant's claim must begin with an analysis of the IAD itself, as New Jersey has adopted it at N.J.S.A. 2A:159A. Unfortunately, the statute does not specifically address how to resolve a case such as this, where the State has indicated it will not request temporary custody of the prisoner and schedule the matter for trial, even though the 180-day period for doing so has not expired. The relevant part of subsection (a) of Article III reads:

[the prisoner requesting final Disposition of an untried indictment underlying a detainer] shall be brought to trial within 180 days after he shall have caused to be delivered to the prosecuting officer and the appropriate court of the prosecuting officer's jurisdiction written notice of the place of his imprisonment and his request for a final Disposition to be made of the indictment, information or complaint . . . .

[N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-3(a).]

Subsection (d) of Article III ...


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