The Speedy Trial Clause is the right of the defendant to demand that the trial should be held as soon as possible since to be imprisoned without trial is a violation of “due process” according to the 5th Amendment of the United States. In this page, Attorney Ross explains how this is beneficial to defendants.
Speedy Trial Clause
Written down as part of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, it is explained as:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial.”
The Founding Fathers intended this clause to protect the defendant from delay between the the date of the indictment and the date of the trial. They understood that to be incarcerated before being judged for the crime is unfair to the freedoms of the person. Before the trial, there’s no way to know if the person imprisoned before the trial determines if the defendant is even guilty of the charge at all. It also prevents the courts, government and the prosecution from taking advantage of the delay, which is prejudiced against the defender.
Speedy Trial Act of 1974
Basically, it establishes the time limits for completing the trial. For Nevada in particular, the Act states,
“The defendant has the right to a schedule a trial within 60 days of the arraignment, or the defendant can waive this right to a speedy trial.”
Part of the act is to ensure that the defendant is not rushed without mounting a sufficient defense, so the Congress modified the Act to include a minimum time period(usually 30 days) during which the trial cannot commence. The defendant must agree in writing if the trial is to be held earlier.
If the indictment is ever dismissed upon the defendant’s request, the Act “renews” if the charge is reinstated. If the government itself dismissed the indictment, the 60-day clock is tolled (time limit “paused”), which will only run again after the filing of another indictment.
Four-part Balancing Test
This is the test that the courts are instructed to do to determine if the defendant has been denied a speedy trial. The four parts are:
- The length of the delay
- The reason(s) for the delay
- If the defendant asserted his right to a speedy trial
- If the defendant suffers any prejudice as a result of the delay
The length of the delay has to be unreasonable compared to the gravity of the charges. For serious crimes like murder, a year or more is still considered reasonable and may not be viable in a claim for a speedy trial.
The reasons should also be relevant. If the prosecution’s reasoning is unconvincing or disruptive (i.e. losing the defendant’s evidence) to the proceedings of the court, it can be considered a violation of the clause.
The defendant should assert his right to a speedy trial by stating their reasons. Failure to do so may delay the trial even longer.
The clause was made in part so the persons involved doesn’t take advantage of the system to punish or disadvantage the defendant before judgement. Witness and evidence might be destroyed or go missing, and the charges can disrupt the life of the defendant because of the pending charges.
A violation of the Clause can result in the dismissal of the charges if the court finds the evidence of prejudice against the defendant.
Every human being has rights, including criminals. Reduce the time you have to wait before a trial starts by letting a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney help you.