The United States Constitution guarantees all individuals the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury. Along with the rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution, Congress and the states have passed additional laws to ensure that all defendants in the United States are brought to trial within a reasonably short time after arrest. In some circumstances, defendants whose rights have been denied or ignored might be entitled to a dismissal of the charges. Read on to learn what the right to a speedy trial means for you.

What is the Right to a “Speedy” Trial?

The right to a speedy trial means that after being arrested for a crime, it is your Constitutional right to be brought to trial for the alleged crimes in a reasonable amount of time after the initial arrest. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution grants all individuals this right, along with the right to a trial by an impartial jury. However, the U.S. Constitution does not directly define what is classified as a “speedy” timeline. Luckily, most states have created laws that designate the time in which a trial must take place after charges have been filed.

It’s important to keep in mind that these timelines are primarily based on the circumstances of the case itself and can change as new information arises. If excessive delays in the trial occur are found to be unjust by a court, the court can dismiss the case altogether. However, having all charges dropped and the case dismissed altogether only happens in the most extreme situations.

When determining if a defendant was put through an unreasonable lengthy trial, the U.S. Supreme Court outlines four factors that should be considered. These factors are:

  1. The length of the delay.
  2. The reason behind the delay.
  3. The defendant’s assertion of their rights.
  4. If any prejudices were held toward the defendant, such as if the wait compromised the defense.

Reasons This Right Is Important

The United States Constitution guarantees your rights, as do state constitutions and statutes. So, why is this right guaranteed to individuals across the United States? Well, the reason behind the right to a speedy trial can be summed up through the following four elements.

  1. To prevent lengthy pretrial incarcerations.
  2. To minimize anxiety and emotions over accusations.
  3. To preserve evidence and protect the defendant’s ability to defend themselves.
  4. To relieve court congestion in the legal system.

The Timing and Deadlines of a Speedy Trial

Trials can certainly vary in their timelines without infringing on the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial. Trial lengths are dependent on a number of factors. While there will always be some variability, the Speedy Trial Act, passed into law by the U.S. Congress, set the precedent that a trial must begin 70 days from the filing date of indictment unless waived.

States within the union have also passed their own legislation when it comes to receiving a speedy trial. For example, in California, the state law dictates that a defendant charged with a felony must be brought to trial within 60 days of their arraignment. For misdemeanor charges, a defendant must be brought to trial within 30 days of their arraignment. If your case does not go to trial by these deadlines, you can argue that the government has violated your right to a speedy trial.

Waiving Your Right to a Speedy Trial

While you do have a right to a speedy trial, in some circumstances, it may be in your best interest to waive this right. As discussed above, cases are required to be brought to trial in short periods of time. As a defendant, your lawyer may advise you to waive this right in order to give your defense team more time to prepare for your case. To waive this right, your attorney will have you make a written declaration.

Asserting Your Right to a Speedy Trial

In some circumstances, you will need to assert your right to a speedy trial. The need to assert your right to a speedy trial arises in situations where you believe the court system has infringed on your rights in some manner. If you find yourself in this situation, you should consult with your attorney and file a speedy trial motion when the prosecution or court delays your trial.

Consult with a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you believe your right to a speedy trial has been infringed upon, it’s time to consult with a criminal defense attorney today. An experienced attorney will be able to answer any questions you may have and work with you to make sure you receive the representation you deserve.

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