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To Avoid Sitting in Jail Forever, You Have to Request a Speedy Trial
June 26, 2013
The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees defendants the right to a speedy trial. This right is granted so that an individual will not be arrested and then placed in jail indefinitely. It also helps people avoid having charges hanging over them if they are released on bail. No specific length of time is specified by law. Instead, courts look at a number of factors to determine if a person’s right to a speedy trial has been violated.
Factors to Consider
Several things come into play when determining how long the accused should wait between an arrest and a trial. Defense attorneys rarely want a trial to be over in a matter of only a few weeks, as a reasonable amount of time needs to be devoted to preparing a defense. Even so, unnecessary delays could result in witnesses who go missing or pass away. Time-sensitive evidence could also be ruined. Some things that are considered concerning speedy trials are:
Length of delay
Type of offense
Number of active cases in the court system
Reasons for delay
Whether the defendant requested a speedy trial
Harm done to the case by unreasonable delays
A person’s right to a speedy trial is said to be violated if it takes place more than one year after an arrest. This can be rebutted by the government by showing just cause as to why the delay happened. A delay can also happen if a defendant requests it in order to give their attorney more time to prepare for the trial. In other words, it’s not at all unusual for the one-year benchmark to be surpassed without violating the rights of the accused.
The prosecution will sometimes request a delay in court proceedings due to an absent witness or unavailable evidence. These requests must be reasonable in nature and not be due to negligence. For example, the fact that a prosecutor failed to prepare for trial or contact witnesses in a timely manner should have no bearing on whether or not a trial is delayed.
Speaking Out by the Defendant
If a defendant hopes to raise the issue that his right to a speedy trial was violated, it’s important for him to assert his wishes early on. Those who fail to request a speedy trail cannot usually raise the question of a civil rights violation on appeal. The right to a speedy trial is said to be voluntarily waived if the individual pleads guilty or files a series of frivolous motions in an effort to delay court proceedings.