United States v. Hernandez-Meza

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 06-21-2013
  • Case #: 12-50220
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Chief Judge Kozinski for the Court; Circuit Judges Wardlaw and Gould
  • Full Text Opinion

Brief continuance proceedings are not automatically excluded from Speedy Trial Act time limitations; it is an abuse of discretion to reopen a case based on surprise when no surprise exists and to not hear well-made objections to admission of evidence.

Hernandez-Meza (“Meza”) was appealed his convictions on grounds that the government violated the Speedy Trial Act (“STA”) and that the district court judge abused his discretion when he allowed the case to be reopen upon motion by the government. To qualify for an exception to the STA, the court would have had to have been notified by the defendant that a plea agreement had been reached; Meza did not inform the court of any plea agreement. The government argued the two days the parties appeared in court and were granted continuances were "automatically excluded as 'delay resulting from other proceedings concerning defendant.'" The panel rejected this argument because the two brief appearances cited by the government were substantially dissimilar to the proceedings listed in 18 U.S.C § 3161(h)(1). The district court therefore abused its discretion when it allowed the government to reopen its case-in-chief to introduce new evidence on the basis of surprise. One of Meza's defenses to his illegal reentry charge was that he was a derivative citizen due to his mother's naturalization. After both parties closed their cases, the government moved for the court to reopen so that they could introduce evidence which would contradict Meza's derivative citizen claim. The government argued, and the district court agreed that sufficient surprise existed to allow the case to be reopened and the evidence to come in. However, Meza made the derivative citizen argument multiple times in the course of the government's case-in-chief. Therefore, no surprise existed which would allow for the case to be reopened. VACATED and REMANDED.

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