Speedy Trial in the United States
A Sixth Amendment safeguard that entitles a criminal defendant to a timely and public trial. Speedy trial is intended to keep an accused from protected pretrial detention, and it protects against the diminution of a criminal defendant’s ability to offer a defense. Speedy trial also ensures that the prosecutor’s case will not erode because of delay, thus forming a two-edged constitutional sword. The speedy trial protection begins at the time a person is formally accused unless pre-charging delays aimed at gaining prosecutorial advantage occur. The speedy trial provision of the federal Constitution was made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment in Klopfer v. North Carolina (386 U.S. 213: 1967). (1)
Analysis and Relevance
Speedy trial challenges that would establish fixed time limits for trials or would depend on formal demand by the accused for a speedy trial have been rejected by the Supreme Court. Rather, the Court developed a balancing test for speedy trials in Barker v. Wingo (407 U.S. 514: 1972).
The four components are:
- length of delay;
- sufficiency of reasons for the delay;
- assertion of the right by the accused; and
- injury or prejudice suffered by the accused through pretrial incarceration, anxiety, and/or impairment of the ability to present a defense.
In addition to these guidelines established by the Court, both federal and state legislation exists to govern the speed by which a criminal case progresses through the courts. The Speedy Trial Act of 1974, for example, establishes a 30-day period from arrest to indictment in federal cases. Trial must then occur within 70 days of indictment. Delays caused, for example, by hearings on motions or competency examinations are excluded from speedy trial calculations. The objective of the federal statute is first to protect the integrity of a prosecutable case, and secondarily the defendant’s interest. State laws, on the other hand, tend to be aimed first at protecting the accused from excessive delay. Defense-initiated requests for postponements are not considered delays covered by speedy trial protection. Generally, speedy trial statutes are only marginally successful in moving criminal cases through the justice system. No effective enforcement mechanisms exist, so specified time periods become goals rather than formal requirements. (2)
Speedy Trial Definition
A trial brought on as speedily as the prosecution can reasonably be expected or required to be ready for it. 4 Nev. 113; 74 Iowa 369. (3)
Speedy Trial Case Law
The guarantee of a speedy trial is meant to ensure that the government will try a person accused of crime within a reasonable time and without undue delay. But how long a delay is too long? The Supreme Court has long recognized that each case must be judged on its own merits.
In a leading case, Barker v. Wingo, 1972, the Court listed four criteria for determining if a delay has violated the constitutional protection. They are (1) the length of the delay, (2) the reasons for it, (3) whether the delay has in fact harmed the defendant, and (4) whether the defendant asked for a prompt trial.
The Speedy Trial Act of 1974 says that the time between a person’s arrest and the beginning of his or her federal criminal trial cannot be more than 100 days. The law does allow for some exceptions, however–for example, when the defendant must undergo extensive mental tests, or when the defendant or a key witness is ill.
The 6th Amendment guarantees a prompt trial in federal cases. The Supreme Court first declared that this right applies against the States as part of the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause in Klopfer v. North Carolina, 1967.
According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, the Sixth Amendment provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial.” The Supreme Court in klopfer v. north carolina (1967) held that the guarantee is applicable to the states through the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. (…) Since the original publication of this Encyclopedia, the Supreme Court has decided only one case of note regarding the constitutional right to a speedy trial. In United States v. Loud Hawk (1986) the Court concluded that a delay of ninety months did not entitle the defendant to some rights.
Notes and References
- Definition of Speedy Trial from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California
- This definition of Speedy Trial Is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary
- Legal Topics.
- Criminal Justice Process
- Criminal Procedure: Constitutional Aspects
- Criminal Trial
- Criminal Law
- Criminal Procedure
- Due Process of Law
- Incorporation Doctrine.
Related Case Law
Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972).
Barron v. Baltimore, 32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 243 (1833).
Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).
Farretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975).
In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970).
Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213 (1967).
Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932).
Strunk v. United States, 412 U.S. 434 (1973).
United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307 (1971).
Further Reading (Books)
Amar, Akhil Reed. “Foreword: Sixth Amendment First Principles.” Georgetown Law Journal 84 (1996): 641.
Amsterdam, Anthony G. “Speedy Criminal Trial: Rights and Remedies.” Stanford Law Review 27 (1975): 525.
Arkin, Marc M. “Speedy Criminal Appeal: A Right without a Remedy.” Minnesota Law Review 74 (1990): 437.
Godbold, John C. “Speedy Trial: Major Surgery for a National Ill.” Alabama Law Review 24 (1965): 265.
Further Reading (Articles)
LEARNING FROM KATRINA: EMPHASIZING THE RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL TO PROTECT CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES IN DISASTERS, American Criminal Law Review; July 1, 2007; Ellard, Patrick
AL MPs walk out over Speedy Trial Bill, THE INDEPENDENT, The Independent (Bangladesh); November 19, 2002
New Civil Case Process Adopted for Speedy Trials, Korea Times (Seoul, Korea); March 2, 2001
And Getting Speedy Trials, The Washington Post; November 21, 1988
RULES SET FOR SPEEDY TRIAL OF INMATES JUSTICES AFFIRM LOWER COURT DISCRETION.(LOCAL/STATE), The Capital Times; December 28, 2001
Missouri loosens standards for speedy trials, Missouri Lawyers Media; May 27, 2009; Kelly Wiese
ABOVE ALL THINGS SPEEDY TRIALS, The Manila Times; September 9, 2006; Jr, Ramon Mabutas, Eloisa S
COURT OVER TURNS THREE-STRIKES CONVICTION BECAUSE OF SPEEDY TRIAL STATUTE, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA); January 18, 2001; AP
Seeking amendment for speedy trials, New Straits Times; September 26, 2005; Aniza Damis
Speedy trials against Bhagalpur riots accused, Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India); January 13, 2007
Not-So-Speedy Trials: Litigation, Directorship; September 1, 2008; Gold, Django
SPEEDY TRIAL AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE, Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India); August 21, 200
JUDGES MAY TOSS INMATE CASES HIGH COURT RULES ON APPLYING SPEEDY TRIAL LAW.(LOCAL/WISCONSIN), The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI); December 28, 2001
New system to ensure speedy trials, New Straits Times; April 23, 2010; V. Vasudevan Ili Liyana Mokhtar
Speedy trial, speedy games.(Florida), Florida Bar Journal; December 1, 2002; Zayas, Angelica D.
Soon, speedy trials for dud cheque cases, Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India); November 28, 2010
Speedy Trial Demands, Army Lawyer; December 1, 2011; Wilkinson, Joseph D.
SC orders speedy trial of Gujarat cases., Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia); May 4, 2009
Ryan’s friend pleads not guilty; Lobbyist requests a speedy trial, Telegraph – Herald (Dubuque); December 20, 2003; ASSOCIATED PRESS
County Jail searches for way to reduce overcrowding Speedy trials ‘not happening in many, many cases’: expert, Chicago Sun-Times; August 26, 2004; Natasha Korecki