Because defendants are presumed innocent until proven otherwise, it makes sense that the Founders believed in giving the accused their day in court as quickly as possible. The 6th Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial. It is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it quickly clears the names of innocent people in a court of law. But what constitutes a speedy trial?
Under California law, a misdemeanor criminal case must be tried within 45 days of charges for individuals who are not being incarcerated and just 30 days for anyone in custody. Felony charges must be tried within 60 days. More specifically, formal charges are required within 15 days of an arrest, and misdemeanors are tried within 45 days of arraignment. Felonies must be tried within 60 days of arraignment. If that fails to occur because the state’s case is not ready yet and they have failed to demonstrate good cause for a delay, the case may be dismissed with a Serna motion, the claim that a speedy trial was denied.
Benefits of a Speedy Trial
The benefits of having a speedy trial are many:
- Defendants who have been wrongly accused are able to move on with their lives rather than be indeterminately burdened with unresolved charges.
- Locating witnesses to the event in question will be less challenging if the trial occurs soon after an alleged crime.
- Witnesses will likely remember their experiences more clearly.
- A speedy trial can reduce the time behind bars since the accused is often jailed while awaiting trial.
- A speedy trial will reduce the stress and trauma for defendants.
There are numerous reasons that any trial might be delayed, some legitimate, and others not so much:
- Information may be passed along to the prosecution from law enforcement slowly.
- The prosecution may be slow to disclose information to the defense.
- State labs may be slow due to backlogs, leading to delays in essential forensic testing.
- Complicated cases have a great deal of evidence that takes an extraordinary amount of time to review.
- The prosecution may be short-handed, and therefore need more time to prepare.
- Backlogged court dockets may make scheduling a timely court date a challenge.
- In some situations, the prosecution may intentionally delay the case for their own reasons.
The Fight for a Speedy Trial
If a person’s right to a speedy trial is violated, an aggressive defense attorney might charge that the prosecution was sloppy and disordered, leading to unnecessary delays. It may be possible to find evidence of intentional delays by the prosecution in an attempt to provide gain time to ferret out additional evidence against the defendant. Since the right to a speedy trial was largely intended to safeguard the presumption of innocence, any uncommon or problematic delays might be a reason to fight for a case dismissal.
Advocating for You
The dedicated and experienced criminal defense attorneys at Boertje & Associates always fight for the best outcomes for you, regardless of the charges, regardless of the circumstances. To discuss your situation, schedule a confidential consultation in our San Diego office today.