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State v. Atsidis

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, Sussex

February 26, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
GEORGE ATSIDIS, Defendant. STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
GARY G. BUSACCA, Defendant. STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
EDGAR CHABLA-ACEVEDO, Defendant. STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
EMILY A. ELLINGER, Defendant. STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
ZACHARY L. GONZALEZ, Defendant. STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
ROBERT L. SANGER, Defendant. STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
ZANDRA J. SAUERS, Defendant. STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
SEAN M. STITZ, Defendant. STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
KRISTEN M. WYATT, Defendant.

          Submitted: December 18, 2017

          Barzilai K. Axelrod, Esq., Deputy Attorney General.

          Edward C. Gill, Esq., Attorney for Defendants George Atsidis, Robert L. Sanger, and Sean M. Stitz.

          Eric G. Mooney, Esq., Attorney for Defendants Gary G. Busacca, Edgar Chabla-Acevedo, Emily A. Ellinger, Zachary L. Gonzalez, Zandra J. Sauers, and Kristen M. Wyatt.

          DECISION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          THE HONORABLE ROSEMARY BETTS BEAUREGARD JUDGE.

         In June 2017, Delaware's 149th General Assembly passed House Bill ("HB") 207.[1] Prior to June 30, 2017, the effective date of HB 207, the Justice of the Peace Court had concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of Common Pleas to try first and second offense violations of 21 Del. C. § 4177(a), Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs ("DUI").[2] HB 207 divested the Justice of the Peace Court of jurisdiction to try first and second offense DUIs, while maintaining the Justice of the Peace Court's jurisdiction to accept first and second offense DUI guilty pleas and § 4177B first offense elections.[3]

         Shortly after HB 207 became effective, the Justice of the Peace Court sua sponte began transferring DUI cases pending before it to the Court of Common Pleas. The affected defendants include George Atsidis, Gary G. Busacca, Edgar Chabla-Acevedo, Emily A. Ellinger, Zachary L. Gonzalez, Robert L. Sanger, Zandra J. Sauers, Sean M. Stitz, and Kristen M. Wyatt ("Defendants").

         Here, Defendants move to dismiss their charges, arguing that the Justice of the Peace Court improperly transferred their cases, and as a result, Defendants have been prejudiced and their speedy trial rights violated. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss are DENIED.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Pursuant to 21 Del. C. § 4l77(d)(l3), as amended by HB 207, the Justice of the Peace Court has jurisdiction "to accept pleas of guilt [for first and second offense DUIs] . . . and to enter conditional adjudications of guilt requiring or permitting a person to enter a first offender election pursuant to § 4177B, " but the Justice of the Peace Court "shall not have jurisdiction to try any [DUI] violations."

         Prior to June 30, 2017, Defendants Atsidis, Chabla-Acevedo, Ellinger, Gonzalez, Sauers, Stitz, and Wyatt were all arrested, brought before the Justice of the Peace Court, pled not guilty, asked for and were scheduled for trial. Thus, as of June 30, 2017, these Defendants were awaiting trial in a court without jurisdiction to try their cases.

         The remaining Defendants, Busacca and Sanger, were arrested prior to June 30, 2017, with arraignment scheduled for July 7, 2017. Both Defendants Busacca and Sanger filed an arraignment by pleading form, pleading not guilty and demanding trial, prior to arraignment.

         On July 3, 2017, the Justice of the Peace Court sent notices to Defendants Atsidis, Chabla-Acevedo, Ellinger, Gonzalez, Sauers, Stitz, and Wyatt, stating only that their cases had been transferred "at your request, the request of your attorney, the Department of Justice, the Public Defender or the Court."[4] The notice did not cite any authority supporting the transfers. On July 6, 2017, the Justice of the Peace Court sent the same notice to Defendants Busacca and Sanger.

         By failing to identify the Justice of the Peace Court's own interpretation of the effect of HB 207 as the reason for the transfer, the Justice of the Peace Court caused Defendants, the State, and this Court wholly avoidable confusion and turmoil. Nevertheless, once this Court accepted Defendants' cases, the State promptly filed informations, and Defendants filed arraignment by pleading forms pursuant to Court of Common Pleas Criminal Rule 10(c), pled not guilty, demanded trial, and filed motions to dismiss.

         Discussion

         A. The Justice of the Peace Court's Transfer of Defendants' Cases

         Defendants and the State make various arguments regarding the propriety of the Justice of the Peace Court's sua sponte transfer of Defendants' cases and the prejudice Defendants have allegedly suffered as a result.[5] Underpinning all of these arguments is a basic ...


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