SB 453 would provide clearer guidelines as to what constitutes “good cause” for extending certain court deadlines.
Current state and federal law bestows a criminal defendant with the right to a speedy and fair trial. Consequently, California penal code outlines various procedural deadlines that must be met relating to the timing of the defendant’s trial date. If those deadlines are not met as specified in statute, then the case may be dismissed. However, California Penal Code Section 1382 allows extensions to be made for these deadlines if there is good cause.
Unfortunately, what constitutes good cause is not clarified in law. This legal ambiguity has led to the release of defendants charged with violent and dangerous crimes with zero accountability. Over the course of the 10 weeks prior to Dec. 19, 2022, judges of the Riverside County Superior Court alone have dismissed more than 1,000 criminal matters with an additional backlog of approximately 2,200 cases. Of the dismissals, 83 were felony cases including charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, sex crimes, child abuse, and domestic violence.
While defendant rights are a foundational value of our country and state, fairness and justice are equally essential to the welfare of the people. The additional burdens persisting from the recent COVID-19 pandemic and California’s perpetual judgeship shortage have yet to be accounted for in state policy. Explicit “good cause” guidelines for extending these statutory court deadlines will help to better address the increasingly overwhelming caseload while ensuring a fair trial for all parties involved.
SB-453 would clarify that the term “good cause”, for the purpose of extending certain court deadlines, shall include but not be limited to, instances in which either party is subject to brief illness, quarantine, inability to accommodate witness availability despite diligence, or insufficient courtroom/staff availability.