When drivers arrested for a DUI in Los Angeles hire attorneys to represent them, they expect that their counsel will help them resolve issues quickly. But Jason William Gale had a different experience. He discovered—20 years after his DUI arrest!—that his attorney had not followed through in handling Gale’s 1995 DUI arrest in Grand Forks, North Dakota. So when Grand Forks prosecutors (finally) caught up with Gale about a year ago, they took him to court, where the judge found him guilty and fined him $500.
Now the North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled that the 20-year delay violated Gale’s right to a speedy trial.
According to the Bismarck Tribune, Gale’s attorney in 1995, Henry Howe, reported to his client that the case was resolved and closed. Gale left North Dakota shortly after that time. But a background check for a security job Gale was applying for turned up an outstanding arrest warrant for the DUI case. Cass County, which was prosecuting the case, said it had sent three notices to Gale. However, Gale said the court had his address because of other legal actions and claimed that he had never received any such notice.
Gale filed a motion to dismiss the arrest warrant because of the long time lapse. But the state district court that heard the case ruled against him, saying it found his testimony “incredible,” reasoning that Gale took action only because he wanted the job. Cass County prosecutors then tried the case; their witness was a retired police officer who couldn’t recall Gale’s arrest and who had to rely on his notes about it. The judge found Gale guilty.
In overturning Gale’s conviction, the North Dakota Supreme Court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has said that an 8 ½-year delay in prosecuting a case was “extraordinary” and that this was a much longer lapse. It also said “there is no evidence the City attempted to contact Gale’s attorney, nor is there evidence law enforcement tried to locate Gale or execute the warrant.” The court also said that Gale’s right to a fair trial was impaired because the police officer witness couldn’t recall the case and couldn’t answer Gale’s questions about it.
Please consider calling Michael Kraut of the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers to schedule a free consultation with a qualified Los Angeles DUI defense attorney. Mr. Kraut is a Harvard Law School educated ex-prosecutor with nearly 20 years of experience and an excellent track record for getting justice for DUI defendants.