By: Attorney G. Jack Burke
A client recently contacted our office wondering if the so-called “77 Day Rule” could help his case. He had done some online research and found the rule online. Even the Michigan Secretary of State website states that courts must decide drunk and drugged driving cases within 77 days of arrest. At George Law, we understand that our clients facing these charges are anxious to find a way to use the law to help solve their legal problems. Unfortunately, the application of this rule is more complicated than this one simple principle. That is why effective legal counsel is so important.
The origins of this 77 Day Rule are found in Michigan statute MCL 257.625b.
The relevant subsection can be found in number (3) and states:
“Except for delay attributable to the unavailability of the defendant, a witness, or material evidence or due to an interlocutory appeal or exceptional circumstances, but not a delay caused by docket congestion, the court shall finally adjudicate, by a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, entry of a verdict, or other final disposition, a case in which the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor violation of section 625(1), (3), (6), (7), or (8) or section 625m…[Editor’s Note: these sections refer to Alcohol and Drug-related Driving Offenses] within 77 days after the person is arrested for the violation or, if an arrest warrant is issued or reissued, not more than 77 days after the date the issued or reissued arrest warrant is served, whichever is later.” [Italics added]
Now, some of our clients might look at the calendar and see that more than 77 days has elapsed since their arrest or arrest warrant. They might be jumping for joy, thinking that this law applies to them. However, there is more to the statute:
“The court shall not dismiss a case or impose any other sanction for a failure to comply with this time limit. The 77-day time limit does not apply to a violation of section 625(1), (3), (7), or (8) or section 625m punishable as a felony or a violation of section 625(1), (3), (6), (7), or (8) or section 625m joined with a felony charge.” [Italics added]
What Does the 77 Day Rule Mean For My Case?
In essence, those last few sentences mean that the 77 Day Rule has no teeth. The rule exists. If the prosecution delays or the court fails to adjudicate a case within the time period, nothing will happen. It will not result in a dismissal of the case.
Other Defenses and Protections May Be Available
Many Constitutional scholars will recognize that the right to a speedy trial is contained in the US Constitution. Specifically in the Sixth Amendment, it is stated as following.
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury…and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
A Defendant’s Right to a Speedy Trial is also codified in Michigan Court Rule 6.004 Speedy Trial
“(A) Right to Speedy Trial. The defendant and the people are entitled to a speedy trial and to a speedy resolution of all matters before the court. Whenever the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial is violated, the defendant is entitled to dismissal of the charge with prejudice.” [Italics added]
Additionally, Section (B) of this Court Rule establishes an order of prioritization among the court’s cases. It is somewhat intuitive that criminal cases are given priority over civil cases. And the trial of defendants in custody is given priority over other criminal cases.
Often, the real trick is application of these rules. Just consider how world events like COVID-19 can affect a client’s rights. A zealous advocate like George Law can make the appropriate arguments.
Importance of Defense Counsel
On its face, the 77 Day Rule looks like a tool for criminal defendants. Unfortunately, for courts and prosecutors, it can look like a justification to quickly adjudicate Drunk and Drugged Driving matters on the docket. Often, an effective defense, like those provided at George Law, can take longer than 77 days. To get the best results for you, we may need test results, reports from experts, witness testimony, or evidence like videos, police reports, or other information depending on your case.
Contact George Law today at (248) 470-4300 for a consultation with an experienced attorney.