If you have been arrested or charged for a federal offense, you should know that you have a constitutional right to a speedy trial. The Speedy Trial Act of 1974 states that a trial must commence within 70 days from the date the information or indictment was filed, or from the date the defendant appears before an officer of the court in which the charge is pending, whichever is later.

When courts look at claims of a denial of a speedy trial, they do so on a case-by-case basis. During this examination they will balance a number of factors, including:

1. How long the trial was delayed. For example, some courts have found that a delay of more than one year is presumptively prejudicial. United States v. Mendoza, 530 F.3d 758, 762 (9th Cir. 2008).

2. What was the reason for the delay? For example, if there were numerous defendants involved in the matter and the matter was a complex case, then some courts have found that there was no violation to the defendant’s constitutional rights. United States v. Register, 182 F.3d 820, 827 (11th Cir. 1999).

3. Did the Defendant assert a speedy trial right? If a defendant does not promptly assert his speedy trial rights under the Sixth Amendment, then that simple fact will way heavily against him/her in any finding of a constitutional violations. Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530-32 (1972).

4. Was the Defendant prejudiced by the delay? For example, how was the defense impaired by the delay? Did the government cause such delay? If so, how did the delay help the government’s case?

To avoid problems with speedy trial rights, retain counsel knowledgeable and experienced enough to know that the speedy trial issues should be addressed at the time of arraignment. At arraignment your lawyer should routinely assert your “Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial by jury” or waive such right. Some lawyers and defendants will wish to waive this right so that they have more time to prepare a defense. This is not a bad strategy either, particularly if the defendant is not detained pending disposition of the matter.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or ferrari@ferrari-legal.com.

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