Police put you in handcuffs and took you to the county jail. At your arraignment, the judge set a bond, but you don't have the funds to meet it. Therefore, you are in jail until you either raise the money for bail or go to trial. When you know the first option isn't going to happen, you may wonder how long the second option will take.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution says that you have the right to a "speedy trial," but what exactly does that mean? What happens if your case doesn't go to trial before the deadline?
The purpose of the Sixth Amendment
The founding fathers decided that no one should have to spend any more time imprisoned than absolutely necessary prior to a determination of guilt. For this reason, they put your right to a speedy trial into the Bill of Rights. Theoretically, the court may dismiss the charges against you if your trial does not begin within a reasonable amount of time.
What is a reasonable amount of time? For federal prosecutors, this means that they must file official charges against you within 30 days of your arrest. From the date of the indictment, federal prosecutors then have to bring you to trial within 70 days. States may set their own deadlines, but they should remain reasonable.
"Speedy" is a relative term
What if there are delays in starting your trial? Does that mean the court automatically dismisses the case? Not necessarily. Certain issues can cause acceptable delays that courts don't consider violations of your rights. In making that determination, the court may consider the following:
- Did the delay obstruct or impede your defense?
- How long is the delay?
- What is the reason for the delay?
- Did you assert your right to a speedy trial?
You may also waive your right to a speedy trial. You may gain an advantage by doing so since you could obtain more time to prepare your defense. You may inadvertently waive this right if your actions caused the delay. If you failed to explicitly assert your right before trial, you may lose the right to it.
Should I invoke my right to a speedy trial?
It is your right to do so, but you may want to consider it carefully first. The circumstances surrounding your case, along with other factors, may put you at a disadvantage if you invoke your right to a speedy trial. You would more than likely benefit from discussing this option with a California criminal defense attorney before doing anything regarding this right.