The right to a speedy trialspeedy trial

The right to a speedy trial is something that is often heard on television but is often misunderstood by the general public.  For the most part, people think that this means that things will be resolved quickly, and in the criminal justice system rarely does that happen.

Several factors determine the length of your case, including the prosecutor’s schedule, the number of witnesses, the availability of witnesses, the arresting officer’s schedule, the investigation process, the evidence and discovery, the complexity of the case, and the number of cases that are ahead of you.  We discuss this in great detail here. In this blog, we will discuss what it means to have the right to speedy trial.  This is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a criminal defense lawyer.

The right to a speedy trial under the United States Constitution  

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives the people the right to a public trial “without unnecessary delay”.  That does not necessarily mean fast, but the term speedy trial has been used in reference to this for several years.

Not all states have a speedy trial statute, North Carolina for example does not (at this time of this writing), but through the Fourteenth Amendment, those who are charged with a state crime still have this constitutional protection in their respective states.

What constitutes a speedy trial?

Typically, the rights to a speedy trail do not become an issue until the case is been pending for more than a year.  Since this right was written in a very vague manner, it is difficult for Courts to determine how long is too long. Barker v. Wingo, is a United State Supreme Court case that addressed this issue and provided an analysis of what constitutes a violation of this right. In this case, four factors were developed:

  • The length of the delay,
  • The reason for the delay,
  • The time and manner in which the defendant has asserted his right,
  • The degree of prejudice to the defendant which the delay caused.

Therefore, it is not enough of for the defendant to simply state that things are taking too long.  The defendant would have to show that some harm to his case occurred because of the delay.

Other factors

The criminal justice system is extremely slow, especially when there will be a criminal trial.  The defense has to wait for discovery, and the prosecutor has to factor in the availability of witnesses, physical evidence and several other things.  It is not simply a matter of anyone trying to be slow.  One of the advantages of hiring a criminal defense attorney is to keep you updated on the process and give you information on what is going on.

If you have been charged with a crime contact us.  At Gilles Law, we handle North Carolina criminal defense, South Carolina criminal defense, and Federal criminal defense.