RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. - The Riverside County District Attorney's office is appealing a felony assault case after it was one of hundreds thrown out in the county due to a lack of available courtrooms.
Jose Luis Tapia, 51, is accused of attacking a man with a machete back on Aug. 12, 2020. According to police documents, Tapia and the victim had gotten into an argument about a Playstation system, according to police documents. The victim accused Tapia of taking his Playstation and when he confronted Tapia, Tapia allegedly grabbed a machete and attacked him. Tapia was charged with felony assault with personal use of a weapon and causing great bodily injury.
The DA's office announced it was ready to begin Tapia's trial on Oct. 26, but was told by the court that there were no available courtrooms. The next day the case was dismissed for violating Tapia's right to a speedy trial. The DA's office said it asked for a continuance, arguing that the lack of courtrooms was a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic, however the court disagreed, and found no good cause to delay the proceedings.
The DA's office appealed the decision last Friday, Oct. 28, however officials say the appeals process can take months.
According to the DA's office, Riverside County Superior Court judges began dismissing criminal cases due to a lack of available courtrooms, and so far judges have dismissed more than 350 criminal court cases.
California law permits prosecutors to refile dismissed felony cases one time. Dismissed misdemeanor cases cannot be refiled.
"My prosecutors stand ready to try cases at any time. The people of Riverside County deserve the same service of justice from the courts," said DA Mike Hestrin. "We are asking the judges to engage with the facts of the cases and the backlog. Our office is appealing these decisions to our appellate courts and the California Supreme Court as necessary."