IN COURT OF APPEALS
David Francis Coughlin,
Filed May 22, 2007
Steele County District Court
File No. K6-03-715
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Peter R. Marker, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Douglas L. Ruth, Steele County
Attorney, 303 South Cedar,
Mary M. McMahon, McMahon &
Associates Criminal Defense, Ltd.,
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Wright, Judge; and Harten, Judge.
S Y L L A B U S
††††††††††† Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 6, requires a prosecutor to file, within three years of a finding of a defendantís incompetency, written notice of intent to prosecute if the defendant is restored to competence.† If a defendant alternates between periods of competency and incompetency, the written notice requirement is triggered after three uninterrupted years of incompetence.
O P I N I O N
a shootout with
In May 2004, the district court found respondent competent to stand trial, but on 16 December 2004, before a trial could be held, the district court once again found respondent incompetent to stand trial.
In June 2006, the district court received a report indicating that respondent was again competent.† Respondent moved for a competency hearing, which was held in January 2007.† At the hearing, the district court sua sponte requested the parties to brief the impact of Minn. R. Crim P. 20.01, subd. 6, on respondentís situation.†
Having concluded that Minn. R. Crim P. 20.01, subd. 6, entitled respondent to dismissal of all charges against him because the state had not filed a notice of intent to prosecute within three years of the initial finding of respondentís incompetency, the district court dismissed the charges.† The state challenges the dismissal.
Does Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 6, require a prosecutor to file, within three years of the initial finding of defendantís incompetency to stand trial, written notice of intent to prosecute if the defendant is restored to competence after the defendant had alternated between periods of competency and periods of incompetency lasting less than three years?†
of the rules of criminal procedure is a question of law, which this court
reviews de novo.† State v. Whitley, 649 N.W.2d 180, 183 (
Except when the defendant is charged with murder, the criminal proceedings shall be dismissed upon the expiration of three years from the date of the finding of the defendantís incompetency to proceed unless the prosecuting attorney, before the expiration of the three-year period, files a written notice of intention to prosecute the defendant when the defendant has been restored to competency.
Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 6.† Here, because the prosecutor had not filed a notice of intent to prosecute in January 2007 and respondent had first been found incompetent more than three years earlier, in August 2003, the district court dismissed the proceedings against him.†
We disagree with this reasoning.† The period of incompetency that began with the initial finding lasted only nine months; respondent was found competent in May 2004. ďIf the court determines that [a previously incompetent] defendant is competent to proceed, the criminal proceedings against the defendant shall be resumed.Ē †Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 4.† Accordingly, criminal proceedings against respondent were resumed and, between May and December 2004, he pleaded not guilty, a trial was scheduled, and he moved for a change of venue. †Because this period of respondentís incompetency had lasted less than three years, the prosecutor was not required to file a notice of intent to prosecute when respondentís competency returned.
††††††††††† Respondentís second period of incompetency lasted 18 months, from December 2004 until June 2006, when he was again found competent. †Under Minn. R. Crim P. 20.01, subd. 4, criminal proceedings against him were again resumed.† Respondent moved for another competency hearing, which was held in January 2007. †But that hearing did not result in a finding of respondentís competency; instead, it resulted in the dismissal of all charges against respondent based on the prosecutorís failure to file a notice of intent to prosecute by August 2006, which was three years after the initial finding of respondentís incompetency.
††††††††††† If respondent had been incompetent throughout those three years, the dismissal would have been appropriate.† But neither respondentís initial period of incompetency †(nine months) nor his second period of incompetency (eighteen months) was long enough to trigger the Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 6, requirement that a prosecutor file, within three years of the finding of incompetency, written notice of intent to prosecute if the incompetent defendant later becomes competent.
††††††††††† Respondent argues that the Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 6, reference to ďthree years from the date of the finding of the defendantís incompetency to proceedĒ should be read as ďthree years from the date of the initial finding of the defendantís incompetency to proceed.Ē† But this reading ignores the reality that incompetency is sometimes not a permanent condition; periods of incompetency may alternate with periods of competency.† The rules envision this reality: see, e.g., Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 4 (ďIf the court determines that [a previously incompetent] defendant is competent to proceed, the criminal proceedings against the defendant shall be resumed.Ē)
construing a procedural rule, this court considers both the plain language and
the purpose of the rule.† In re Welfare of S.M.E., 725 N.W.2d 740,
††††††††††† We conclude that Minn. R. Crim. P.
20.01, subd. 6, does not require a prosecutor to file written notice of intent
to prosecute if the defendant is restored to competence within three years of
the initial finding of a defendantís incompetency to stand trial, unless that initial
finding is followed by a continuous period of incompetency lasting at least three
are aware that permitting prosecutors to comply with Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01,
subd. 6, by filing written notice of intent to prosecute within three years of
any finding of incompetency, not only the initial finding, may result in
delayed trials.† But these delays violate
neither due process nor, more specifically, the right to a speedy trial because
they result from the defendantís incompetency.†
D E C I S I O N
††††††††††† We reverse the dismissal of the charges against respondent and remand for proceedings appropriate in light of respondentís competency.
††††††††††† Reversed and remanded.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, ß 10.
 Another version of Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 6, became effective on 1 April 2007.† The change is irrelevant to the instant case.
 We note that no prejudice accrues to
respondent from this reversal.† The state
has three years from the date of his alleged offense, 7 June 2003, to file its
indictment or complaint.†