Skip navigation

In re Bernard T., 1999 N.Y. Int. 0003 (Feb. 11, 1999).


Family Court may deny a motion to dismiss and release a juvenile pending a future hearing which conforms to the statutory period that applies to non-detained juveniles.



Matter of Bernard T.

On October 31, 1996, the presentment agency filed a delinquency petition in Family Court alleging that Bernard, a juvenile, committed acts that would qualify as Class A misdemeanors. During the initial appearance, Bernard waived his rights to a speedy trial until a November 8 hearing date, and was remanded to secure detention.

On November 8, the presentment agency was not ready to proceed. Bernard moved for a dismissal because the agency failed to hold a fact-finding hearing within the Family Court Act ("FCA") section 340.1 time limit. The court denied the motion and released Bernard while adjourning the case until a December 18 trial date. Bernard filed a written motion to dismiss, claiming that because no finding of good cause for adjournment was made the only remedy was dismissal. Family Court denied the motion and Bernard was found to have committed the alleged acts as a juvenile delinquent. He was remanded to Division for Youth custody for 12 months. The Appellate Division affirmed.

Matter of Oldalys O.

On August 23, 1996, the presentment agency filed a delinquency petition alleging that Oldalys, a juvenile, committed acts equivalent to several Class B and D felonies. At the initial hearing, Oldalys was remanded for detention. The Family Court adjourned until an August 30 fact-finding hearing. On August 30 the agency requested and was granted an adjournment until September 6. On September 6, the agency requested a "good cause" adjournment. Oldalys then moved to dismiss, claiming that no good cause was shown and that the only remedy for holding the fact-finding hearing after the statutory period was a dismissal. The court granted the agency's motion stating that good cause existed and adjourned the hearing to September 10. Throughout, Oldalys remained in detention.

On September 10, the agency still could not proceed and the law guardian moved for dismissal. Family Court ruled that the motion to dismiss should be written, adjourned the fact-finding hearing to October 2, and released Oldalys. On October 2 (forty days after the initial appearance), the court denied the written motion to dismiss and conducted the hearing. Oldalys was found to have committed certain of the alleged crimes and was remanded to the Division for Youth for 18 months. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding: (1) that the speedy hearing provisions were not violated; and (2) that sufficient good cause existed for the September 6 adjournment. The Appellate Division also noted that, once Oldalys was released from detention, the non-detention statuary provisions became applicable. It was then within the Family Court's discretion to adjourn the fact-finding hearing without a showing of good cause or special circumstances.



Whether the speedy trial rights of detained juveniles was violated when Family Court denied a motion to dismiss, choosing
instead to release the juveniles and adjourn the fact-finding hearings for dates within the statutory period applicable to  non-detained juveniles.


No. Family Court may deny a motion to dismiss and release a juvenile pending a future hearing which conforms to the statutory period applicable to non-detained juveniles.


Cases Cited by the Court

Other Sources Cited by the Court



State of the Law Before Bernard T.

The Family Court Act ("FCA") contains various provisions establishing time limitations governing each stage of juvenile proceedings. See, e.g., Fam. Ct. Act §§ 307.1, 308.1, 320.2, 332.1, 340.1 and 350.1. The purpose of these provisions is to assure swift and certain adjudication at all phases of the proceeding. See In re Frank C., 70 N.Y.2d 408 (N.Y. 1987).

Section 340.1 of the FCA imposes time limitations that govern fact finding hearings. Under section 340.1, the time period between the conclusion of the initial appearance and the commencement of the fact finding hearing depends on the juvenile's detention status. For non-detained juveniles this time period is sixty days. Alternatively, where a juvenile is in detention the section provides that the fact finding hearing must be commenced within three to fourteen days after the initial appearance.

In In re Frank C., 70 N.Y.2d at 414, the Court of Appeals interpreted section 340.1 and held that delay of the fact finding hearing beyond the time limits delineated by the section requires dismissal of the presentment agency's petition. This sanction, the court further concluded, is necessary to effectuate the legislatures goal of prompt adjudication and to ensure consistency in the statute's application.

Effect of Bernard T. on Current Law

In Bernard T., the Court of Appeals held that if the presentment agency fails to commence a fact-finding hearing within three to fourteen days of a juvenile's initial appearance, the Family Court may release the detained juvenile and adjourn the fact-finding hearing for a period of sixty days after the initial appearance without contravening the juvenile's rights.

Under Fam. Ct. Act section 340.1(1), the fact-finding hearing must commence within three to fourteen days of the initial appearance for a detained juvenile. The Court stated that if the presentment agency fails to commence the hearing within this time period, the Family Court may release the juvenile but may still bring a fact-finding hearing without dismissing the petition. According to the court, the release of the juvenile triggers section 340.1(2), which states that a fact-finding hearing must commence within sixty days of the initial appearance for a non-detained juvenile. Thus, once the juvenile was released, the Court considered the rights of the previously-detained juvenile the same as that of a never-detained juvenile. The Court asserted that because the juvenile was not detained more than fourteen days and the fact-finding hearing occurred within sixty days of the initial appearance, adjournment of the hearing did not contravene the juvenile's speedy trial rights.

Unanswered Questions

The Court indicates that section 340.1(4)(a) does not apply in this instance. Section 340.1(4)(a) states, "The court may adjourn a fact-finding hearing...on its own motion or on motion of the presentment agency for good cause shown for not more than three day if the respondent is in detention and not more than thirty days if the respondent is not in detention." N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act § 340.1(4)(a). Section 340.1(4)(a) has an adjournment period of thirty days as opposed to the sixty days that the trial court allowed.

While the sixty day time limit appears authorized by section 340.1(1), it is unclear why the Court of Appeals applies this section over section 340.1(4)(a). This is especially puzzling given that section 340.1(4)(a) speaks directly to the issue at hand; namely the permissible time frame for an adjournment of a fact-finding hearing. The Court appeared to ignore the fact that the juveniles had been detained, and treated them as if they had not been.

In addition, the Court fails to sufficiently discuss why it was not objectionable that the presentment agency lacked good cause to adjourn the fact-finding hearing against Bernard. Section 340.1(4)(a) plainly states that good cause is required for adjournment of a fact-finding hearing. N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act § 340.1(4)(a). The opinion indicates that "for unexplained reasons the presentment agency was not ready to proceed" with the fact-finding hearing, but fails to explain why Bernard's objection to a violation of section 340.1(4)(a) was not valid. This is especially troubling given that fact that it has previously been adjudicated that the Family Court Act's "speedy trial" provision was violated because there was no finding of "good cause" for adjournment on the record. In re Melvin A., 628 N.Y.S.2d 698 (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 1985).

Survey of the Law in Other Jurisdictions

The Supreme Court of California examined a similar issue in Alfredo v. Superior Court, 849 P.2d 1330 (Cal. 1993). In Alfredo, a juvenile sought habeus corpus to obtain release. The court held that the Fourth Amendment provides the authority for the promptness requirement for a juvenile hearing. In addition, the Alfredo Court held that a minor must be released upon expiration of the statutory time limit for detention due to the juvenile's interest in freedom from institutional restraints. The court implied that the time allowed to have the hearing is extended once the juvenile is released, and that dismissal is not the only necessary remedy.

In Robinson v. Texas, 707 S.W.2d 47 (Tex.App. 1986), the Texas Court of Appeals held that in calculating the time for a speedy trial continuances should not be included. In this case the court found that continuances based on reset forms signed by appellant's attorney were excludable from the statutory time limits for a speedy trial. In another Texas case, the same court found that a hearing on the State's petition after the statutory limit was not sufficient for dismissal. See Williams v. Texas, 834 S.W.2d 613 (Tex.App. 1992). The Williams Court stated that there was no abuse of discretion or loss of jurisdiction for denying a motion to quash based on failure to have a timely hearing.

In Illinois v. Stufflebean, 392 N.E.2d 414 (Ill.App.Ct. 1979), the Appellate Court of Illinois held that the remedy for detention of a juvenile beyond the statutory limit was immediate release, not dismissal. In Stufflebean, the court denied a probationer's request for dismissal based on incarceration exceeding statutory limits.

Prepared By: