Motorist facing drunk driving charges cleared of DUI because trial not speedy
TRENTON, N.J. – Michael Cahill, a Pennsylvania resident, has been cleared of DUI charges in New Jersey by the state Supreme Court Monday. He will not face the drunk-driving charges now because a municipal court did not give him a speedy trial. The municipal courts are expected to set trial dates within 60 days after a person charged with DUI but the court took 16 months to set a trial date.
The high court’s ruling said that Cahill waited 16 months to learn a trial date for local charges arising from an accident occurred in 2007. Camden Superior Court Judge Anthony Pugliese gave the decision in favor of Cahill and in a unanimous ruling, the court said that the charges should be dismissed.
In October 2007, Cahill was charged with DUI and assault by auto. He swerved his vehicle to avoid a blocked traffic lane and hit a Pennsauken police car as a result. The police officer in the cruiser got minor injuries in the accident. The tests showed his BAC level was more than the legal driving limit which is 0.08 percent.
In 2008, Cahill pleaded guilty to assault by auto and he served a year of probation.
Until March 2010, the municipal court didn’t announce his trial date and the municipal court judge declined to drop his charges. He had been denied a speedy trial. After that Cahill entered a conditional guilty plea to driving under the influence of alcohol and his driver’s license was suspended for a year. Then Cahill appealed to Camden Superior Court Judge Anthony Pugliese. The high court backed that view, describing Cahill’s wait for a trial date as “inordinate and unreasonable”. The Supreme Court ruling acknowledged that Cahill never contacted Pennsauken officials about the delay of the trial date and said “a defendant does not have an obligation to bring himself to trial”. The ruling also noted that Cahill had “limited his employment options in anticipation of prosecution”. The high court also said “any person would experience anxiety from the existence of a pending and long-unresolved charge, particularly one that would have a dramatic effect on daily activities and the ability to earn a living.”
Marissa J. Costello of Marlton, Cahill’s attorney, gladly accepted the ruling and said, “They applied the existing law. It’s unfortunate that wasn’t done in Pennsauken. It would have saved my client a lot of aggravation and money”.
In 2011, an appellate court ruling also supported the decision by Camden Superior Court Judge Anthony Pugliese.
The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, which had appealed the case, didn’t comment on the decision passed by the state Supreme Court.