Question: What does it mean when a State of Arizona prosecutor files a motion for a complex case designation in someone’s case? What if the defendant is in custody, stuck in jail, awaiting trial?
Mr. Stevens’ Answer: Under Arizona law, a complex case designation adds 90 to 120 days (depending on if the defendant is in custody or out of custody) to the total maximum amount of time that the prosecutor has to bring the case to trial. The relevant rule is Rule 8 (Arizona Speedy Trial) of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The Arizona Constitution, and the United States Constitution, also come into play. But procedurally speaking, Rule 8 sums up the situation for your question. Complex case designation under Arizona law is reserved for first degree murder cases, cases involving certain search warrants (wiretaps, etc.), and any other case that the Court believes is truly complex. If a person is in jail, awaiting trial on a felony, normally the prosecution has 150 days from the arraignment to take it to trial.
But in a complex case (if the Court grants the prosecutor’s motion), the person in jail has to wait for 270 days from the arraignment. You should be aware, also, that during the process of the case, such as at Case Management Conferences, if the Arizona defendant’s lawyer agrees to “waive Rule 8 time” or anything to that effect, the process will take longer than 270 days. What that means is that the defendant is waiving his speedy trial rights for a limited time, meaning he is not enforcing his right to a speedy trial at the moment, but can do so in the future by refusing to “waive time” any further.
Any extension of time should be to the benefit of the defendant’s case. No Arizona defendant or Arizona defense lawyer should ever “waive time” or waive constitutional rights unless there is some benefit to the defendant who is sitting in an Arizona jail, awaiting trial.