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State v. Nguyen

September 23, 1996


Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 93-1-00953-1. Date filed: 08/02/93. Judge signing: Hon. Harriett M. Cody.

Cox, J. WE Concur:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cox

COX, J. -- Thuan M. Nguyen challenges his conviction for first degree burglary while armed with a deadly weapon. We affirm.

In 1992, Joseph Rimorin and Charlie Penor returned to Rimorin's home and found that the front door was open. Rimorin had locked all the doors and windows when he left two hours earlier.

As Rimorin entered the kitchen, two young men came out of the master bedroom. Rimorin noticed that the drawers had been pulled out of the dresser in the bedroom and that clothes had been strewn across the floor.

Rimorin asked them if they were his younger sister Abigail's friends. They did not respond and looked puzzled. Rimorin testified that he thought they were speaking Vietnamese to each other.

The two men came toward Rimorin, and he yelled for Penor to come to the kitchen to assist him. One of the men was armed with a large screwdriver. They began to fight, and Rimorin or Penor pulled a leather jacket off one of the men. The other one left the fighting briefly and returned with two kitchen knives. Rimorin then ran to the back of the house, and Penor ran to a neighbor's garage and told them to call the police. The men then fled. During the altercation, Rimorin received several lacerations from the knives.

When the police arrived, they discovered a broken basement window that they concluded was the burglars' point of entry. A detective dusted broken glass from the window and discovered a latent fingerprint, later identified as Nguyen's.

Nguyen turned 18 on July 12, 1992. In February 1993, the State charged Nguyen with one count of first degree burglary.

The trial court denied Nguyen's motion to dismiss based on claimed preaccusatorial delay. A jury convicted him as charged. The trial court also denied his motion for a new trial.

Nguyen appeals.


Preaccusatorial Delay

Nguyen claims that the trial court erred by refusing to dismiss the charges. He bases the claim on the fact that he was still uncharged at the time of his 18th birthday in July, three months after the burglary. Thus,

he could not be charged in juvenile court. We reject this claim.

When a preaccusatorial delay results in loss of juvenile court jurisdiction, this court uses a three-step test to determine whether the delay violates due process:

(1) the defendant must show prejudice resulting from the delay;

(2) the court must consider the reasons for the delay; and

(3) if the State can justify the delay, the court will engage in balancing the State's interest against the prejudice to the accused. *fn1

Although defendants have no constitutional right to be tried as juveniles, a delay resulting in the loss of juvenile court jurisdiction constitutes prejudice as a matter of law under the first prong of this test. *fn2

Here, the police referred Nguyen's file to the prosecutor's office at juvenile court. The prosecutor received it on June 1, 1992. Nguyen's 18th birthday was July 12, 1992. Nearly seven months later, the State filed the information. As the State properly concedes, Nguyen has established prejudice, the first prong under Warner. The substantial delay before filing of the charges meant Nguyen could no longer be tried in juvenile court.

When our Supreme Court addressed the second prong, it stated that there are "only two circumstances where delay can justify vacating a conviction: (1) an intentional delay by the State to circumvent the juvenile Justice system will violate due process, and (2) a negligent delay may violate due process." *fn3 The State has great discretion regarding when to file charges. *fn4 Routine administrative procedures resulting in a delay in filing beyond the defendant's 18th birthday meet the State's burden of providing a legitimate justification for the delay. *fn5 Juveniles approaching majority are not entitled to special treatment, such as accelerated filing. *fn6

Here, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing to address the delay between referral by the police (June 1992) and filing by the prosecutor (February 1993). Based on the uncontroverted testimony of a witness from the juvenile section of the prosecutor's office, the trial court found that the prosecutor's office had followed its normal investigative procedures.

Thus, the State met its burden of justifying the delay.

Moreover, the Alvin court concluded that "the State has a stronger interest in maintaining an orderly administration of judicial process than in disrupting that process to give special ...

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