How Soon Should A Criminal Trial Begin?
Time flies when you’re having fun, but it inches along at a snail’s pace when you are sitting in a jail cell. While serving a prison sentence is such an unpleasant experience that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that you have the right to have a professional attorney help you avoid it even if you do not have any money with which to pay an attorney, at least you wake up every morning one day closer to your release date or your parole hearing. When the charges against you are pending, you keep getting close to the beginning of your sentence, and you don’t know how much time, if any, you will have to spend in prison. “I can go home in 427 days” is a much more reassuring thought than, “maybe two years, maybe five years, maybe just probation, or maybe the jury will acquit me.” Therefore, the law protects defendants from excessively long criminal proceedings. Your case should take long enough that you have time to prepare defenses, but the state should not make you wait an unreasonably long time to find out the outcome of your case. To find out more about the procedures of the criminal courts and about your rights as a defendant, contact a Tampa criminal defense lawyer.
The Sixth Amendment Right to a Speedy Trial
One of the provisions of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the right to a speedy trial, but the amendment does not specify how fast the trial must be. The Speedy Trial Act of 1974 goes into considerably more detail. Specifically, the trial should begin at least 30 days but not more than 70 days after the arraignment, which is the court appearance where the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty to the charges. The arraignment should occur three days after the state decides to charge the defendant. In some cases, that means that it is three days after a grand jury votes to indict the defendant, but in others, it means three days after police arrested the defendant during a traffic stop or while executing a search warrant on the defendant’s property.
What Causes Delays in Criminal Cases?
In practice, not every criminal trial begins within 70 days of the arraignment. Both sides have the right to file pretrial motions; these may relate to whether a certain piece of evidence is admissible at trial, among other matters. The judge can pause the clock while considering how to rule on the pretrial motions. Either side can also request a continuance, which is a postponement of the trial to enable the prosecution or defense to prepare its arguments more thoroughly than the 70 days would allow. Most continuances in criminal cases do not exceed eight months.
Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven
A criminal defense lawyer can help you exercise your right to a speedy trial and prepare the best arguments in your defense. Contact Scriven Law in Tampa, Florida to schedule a consultation.