What is a Right to a Speedy Trial?


SQ Attorneys

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees each and ever criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury. Criminal defendants must be brought to a public trial for their alleged crimes within a reasonably short time after a police officer arrests them. The Sixth Amendment also guarantees that, before being convicted of most crimes, the defendant has a constitutional right to a fair trial by a jury. The jury must find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

A speedy trial means that the defendant is tried for their alleged crimes within a reasonable time period. Most states have laws that set forth the amount of time in which a trial must take place after law enforcement charges a criminal defendant. Often, the issue of whether a trial is speedy enough depends on the circumstances of the case itself and the reasons for any delays.

When a court determines that the delay between arrest and trial was unreasonable and prejudicial to the defendant, the court may dismiss the case altogether. However, a defendant’s request to dismiss a case is not technically one of their speedy trial rights. Instead, they simply ask a court to consider their constitutional right to a speedy trial. The court will then determine whether any delay was unreasonable.

The United States Constitution does not precisely define what a speedy trial is. Unsurprisingly, much litigation and legislation has helped to determine time limits for a speedy trial. The U.S. Supreme Court has laid out factors to consider when deciding whether the time to trial was speedy enough. As detailed in Barker v. Wingo (1972), these factors are: 1) The length of the delay, 2) The reason for the delay, 3) The defendant’s assertion of their right and 4) The prejudice to the defendant

While the Supreme Court provides some guidance, Congress and many states have passed laws to provide specific time limits for a trial. In 1974, Congress passed the federal Speedy Trial Act. It sets a time limit of 70 days from the filing date of the indictment unless the defendant waives the time limit. If the prosecution can show good cause for a delay, the court may excuse it. For example, if the court’s docket is crowded, it may constitute good cause for a delay. Moreover, the court will not consider certain pretrial actions when determining whether a delay in the criminal proceeding was unreasonable.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge (gun related or otherwise), immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So, it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer. SQ Attorneys can be reached at (425) 359-3791 and/or (206) 441-0900.

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