Right to a Speedy Trial
The Constitution gives citizens the right to a speedy trial in criminal cases. If this right is violated, then the court will dismiss the case and the charge. The law is not specific about what the deadlines are for the right to a speedy trial. It is down to the judge’s discretion whether the trial has been unnecessarily delayed or not. The judge will examine whether the circumstances justify the delay or not.
Why Does the Law Protect the Right to a Speedy Trial?
The right to a speedy trial is meant to protect the defendant from staying in prison for too long and protects their right to a fair trial. If the trial doesn’t happen within a decent amount of time, then witnesses may forget vital facts, or evidence may be lost.
The Constitutional Right to a Speedy Trial
The Constitution’s 6th Amendment and the California Constitution protect the right to a speedy trial. In California, the following things trigger the start of the criminal process. The trial must happen in a reasonable time after these:
- Filing an indictment
- Filing a criminal complaint
- The arrest of the defendant
- Issuing a preliminary hearing
If the delays occur because of the defendant’s actions, for example, they evaded arrest, then that delay will be considered reasonable and not the fault of the prosecution.
The Sixth Amendment says the following about the right to a speedy trial:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Waiving the Right to a Speedy Trial
The defendant may waive their right to a speedy trial if they wish. In some cases, it may be beneficial to do so in order to give the defendant and their legal more time to prepare their case. The right to a speedy trial can mean that there is not enough time to track down all the evidence and witnesses that they need to.
In order to waive the right to a speedy trial, the defendant must submit a written declaration. This is something that your criminal defense lawyer can help you with.
Violations of the Right to a Speedy Trial
As we mentioned earlier in the article, there are no hard and fast guidelines as to how quickly the defendant must receive a trial. The law just requires the trial to be set within a reasonable timeframe after the criminal process starts. When considering a claim over violation of the right to speedy trial the judge will consider if the delay was justified or not. For example, if the courts were backed up and it was impossible to get a trial date any earlier, then the judge will likely rule that there were no violations of the right to a speedy trial.
The judge will consider the following things when considering claims for a violation of the right to a speedy trial:
- How long the delay is
- Why the delay happened
- If the delay affected the defendant’s case