By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Being accused of a crime sucks.
The framer’s of the constitution knew this which is why the U.S. Constitution guarantees our right to a speedy trial in the Sixth Amendment. Texas also guarantees the right to a speedy trial in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure section 1.05.
If the State violates your right to a speedy trial — the Judge can dismiss the case. Your right to a speedy trial exists on any case whether it be DWI, drugs, marijuana possession, assault, theft or other serious felonies.
Speedy trial law can be extremely complicated believe it or not. I’ll avoid they hyper-technical legalese for the sake of easy reading but you should understand in this area there are no real bright-line rules that will get a case dismissed. Rather, a denial of a right to speedy trial is viewed by the judge and the Court of Appeals on a sliding scale which give the trial judge mountains of discretion.
The seminal U.S. Supreme Court case which still serves as the corner-stone for speedy trial law is Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1971). In that case, the Supreme Court laid out four general factors as part of the court’s analysis of whether denial of the right to a speedy trial was violated. Those factors include (but aren’t limited to), (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) defendant’s assertion of their right to a speedy trial; and (4) the prejudice to the defendant.
Speedy trial issues usually arise in cases where the judge or the prosecution have continually put a case off for whatever reason — usually either witness problems or a jammed docket. Sometimes they arise where the police made an arrest and the case simply doesn’t get prosecuted over a long period of time for whatever reason (maybe the police lost the police report or some prosecutor dropped the ball).
A speedy trial issue is usually not the first-line of defense in a criminal case. In cases where there the case just never seems ready to go to trial, a good criminal defense lawyer will know how to build a steady record showing the defendant has continually been prepared to try the case and that they have been active in asserting their demand for speedy trial. This will help maximize your chance for a dismissal based on speedy trial violations.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about your own specific case you should consult an attorney.