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Understanding the right to a speedy trial

Posted by Bulldog Law | Dec 13, 2022 | 0 Comments

You may know that you have a right to a trial by a jury of your peers when you're accused of a serious crime, but do you also know that you have a right to a “speedy” trial? The right to require the government to bring you to trial without undue delay is guaranteed under the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Exactly what makes a trial unreasonably delayed can vary from state to state. In California, you can insist on a trial within 60 days for felonies and 45 for misdemeanors if you're not in custody, and within 30 days if you are. There are some exceptions, including when a defendant expressly waives their right to a speedy trial or requests a delay in the proceedings for some other reason – and a lot of defendants choose to do so.

Why would a defendant agree to waive this right?

The speedy trial rule has multiple purposes. It's partially to minimize the chances that an innocent person will sit in jail either without bond or unable to afford bond while they wait for a trial that's many months away. However, it's also to minimize the potential that witnesses will disappear, memories will start to fade and evidence will be lost.

Now, think of this situation from the flip side. The prosecution has a ton of resources at its disposal, while the accused only has their defense team. They may need time to subpoena witnesses, do private investigations into alternative theories of the crime, have expert evaluations done and arrange for additional testing of forensic evidence.

All that may take time – and going to court without it could be a disaster. That's why most of the time it's better for a defendant to allow a trial to be delayed. This is especially true when the situation has attracted the attention of the public since passing the time usually allows the sensational aspects of a case to lose some allure.

If you've been accused of a serious crime, whether or not you should waive your right to a speedy trial is heavily dependent on the facts of your case – and something you should only decide with experienced legal guidance.

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