Most of us have probably heard the phrase “you have the right to a speedy trial” at some point in our lives. But, you may be wondering, what is the right to a speedy trial? And more importantly, what happens if I am denied a “speedy” trial? This blog provides a brief overview of the right to a speedy trial, as well as the effects a violation of your right may have on your criminal case.
The United States and Indiana Constitutions guarantee the right to a speedy trial.1 As our Indiana Supreme Court has stated, “[t]he speedy-trial right is a ‘fundamental principle of constitutional law.’”2 Because of the importance of this right, it is guaranteed by Indiana Criminal Rule 4. Under Criminal Rule 4, the general rule is that when an alleged criminal defendant requests his/her right to a speedy trial, the defendant must be brought to trial within 70 days of the request. The penalty for failure to bring a defendant to trial within 70 days is a dismissal of the case. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, which excuse the State’s failure for bringing a defendant to trial within 70 days, as well as provisions allowing for the State to obtain an extension of time.
You’re probably thinking, “well this is great and all, but do cases actually get dismissed for violation of this right”? Maybe you’re thinking, “well the State can always just get an extension, so it doesn’t really matter”. The fact of the matter is, cases do get dismissed for violation of this right, and the State can’t simply get an extension whenever it so pleases, as was demonstrated in a recent Court of Appeals decision of Peele v. State.3 In Peele, the Court of Appeals recently discharged two criminals after the State failed to bring the defendant within 70 days. On appeal, the State argued that they were not required to bring the defendant to trial within 70 days because they were able to obtain a continuance in order to obtain “lab results.” The Court of Appeals rejected this as a basis for a continuance because at the time the State filed for a continuance, the State had not even sent a request to the state lab to obtain results. As such, the Court of Appeals found that the basis for a continuance was unfounded, and the defendant had his speedy trial right violated.
The right to a speedy trial is a technical right in that it requires a defendant to follow certain procedures in order to assert the same. A defendant who fails to follow the appropriate procedures may end up waiving their right without even knowing. Having skilled trial counsel is key to protecting yourself in a criminal proceeding to ensure all of your Constitutional rights are being protected and asserted. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle criminal defense cases and appeals of criminal convictions throughout the state. This blog is written for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.