What is Your Right to a “Speedy Trial”?
The passage of time can affect many things, but when criminal charges enter the picture, it might be to your benefit. If unwarranted delays should interfere with your Sixth Amendment rights, all such accusations against you could fly out the window in a hurry.
Constitutions at both the state and federal levels guarantee all who face criminal charges the right to have their cases tried in a timely fashion. A good criminal defense attorney knows that if the government’s failure in this regard should prejudice your case, the courts will have no legal choice but to vacate the charges against you.
Why The Right To a Speedy Trial Exists
The right to a speedy trial benefits you in numerous ways, not the least of which includes its ability to protect you against a lengthy and possibly unfounded imprisonment. More importantly, however, the Sixth Amendment assists your chances of mounting a strong defense by preventing the excessive passage of time from dimming a witness’s memories or degrading valuable evidence.
There is just one problem. Although the U.S. Constitution does spell out the right itself, it fails to define one crucial detail: How long is too long?
A Relative Concept
Since one man’s perception of promptness is sure to differ from another’s, the general intention for a trial to occur as soon as possible after an indictment or arrest is often open to interpretation. If the courts should decide that an otherwise inordinate delay had no adverse effect on the defendant’s ability to mount a strong defense, it could jettison any Sixth Amendment attempts at getting the charge or conviction dismissed.
To counter the Sixth Amendment’s ambiguity as to what constitutes a reasonable delay, the courts will apply a balance test that considers:
- The specific length of the delay.
- The reason for its occurrence.
- Any failure of the defendant to assert his right to a speedy trial.
- Whether the delay has adversely affected the chances of mounting a viable defense.
The opinion of what constitutes a speedy trial will also differ in accordance with whether the defendant is facing charges at the state or federal level. The states will normally spell this out with greater clarity. In Nevada, for instance, a trial must normally begin after at least 30 but no more than 60 days have passed since the arraignment. The speedy-trial clock will normally start ticking in unison with either the complaint, the indictment or the arrest, whichever comes first. Nevertheless, these charges must be formal in nature. Suspicion alone is not sufficient reason to start the clock, and any time the defendant may spend in evasive attempts at avoiding arrest will temporarily stop it.
When Delays Don’t Count
The clock will also stop if circumstances or specific actions on the part of the defense serve to push the trial date forward. Such delays might include:
- Your attorney’s request for continuance.
- The inability of either you or your lawyer to appear on the scheduled date.
- A witness’s lack of availability.
- A forced rescheduling related to some misconduct on your part.
Nevertheless, any unreasonable delay that could prove an impediment to your defense will bolster the case for violation of your right to a speedy trial. This includes any interruptions resulting from carelessness, inattention or outright misbehavior on the part of the prosecutor.
Gaining Your Freedom
If you and your criminal defense attorney can successfully establish a clear violation of your Sixth Amendment rights before your case has made it to trial, the courts must legally dismiss the charges against you. Moreover, these rights can protect you even after your conviction. If you can prove that unacceptable delays compromised all chances of winning your case, the courts must set aside your conviction, vacate your sentence and dismiss any charges against you.
How Weiner Law Group Can Help
If you believe that failure to honor your Sixth Amendment rights should result in dismissal of your criminal charges or an overturn of your conviction, it’s time to contact a criminal defense attorney. The professionals at Weiner Law Group will not only explain how the rules in your jurisdiction apply to your case but also assist in determining whether waiving your right to a speedy trial could hurt or help you in the end. Criminal charges are always serious, and the expert criminal defense attorneys at Weiner Law Group will ensure that you don’t miss any possible chance to have them dropped. For the quickest start in mounting your defense, give us a call at 702-202-0500 or fill out our contact form today.