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How “Speedy” Is The Right To A “Speedy Trial”?

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The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution famously declares that in all criminal cases, the accused “shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” The Constitution itself never actually defines the word “speedy,” however, so what does this actually mean? Does the state actually have a time limit to try you on a criminal charge?

The Rules–and Exceptions–Governing Florida Trial Deadlines

In Florida, the right to a speedy trial is more precisely defined in the state’s Rules of Criminal Procedure. Specifically, rule 3.191 defines the scope of a defendant’s speedy trial right. The basic rule is that “every person charged with a crime shall be brought to trial within 90 days of arrest” for a misdemeanor or “within 175 days of arrest” for a felony. Note that these time limits only apply to when the trial begins, not when it ends. So if you are arrested on a felony charge and your trial begins within 175 days, the state has satisfied its speed trial obligation under the rule.

Now, the 90/175 rule is simply a default. The defendant may actually request an even speedier trial by filing a written “demand” with the court within 60 days of a formal charge by indictment or information. This demand is basically a notice informing the prosecution and the court that the defendant is ready to go to trial immediately. This does not actually mean the trial will begin right away. Instead, the court has 5 days from receiving the demand to set the case for trial, which must then begin with 5 to 45 days. So in practical terms, the trial must begin no more than 50 days after the defendant files their demand.

So what happens if the deadline to begin a speedy trial expires? At that point, the defendant must file another notice with the court. Within five days of that notice, the judge must order the trial to begin within 10 days unless there is an “excusable circumstance.” Otherwise, the case is dismissed and the defendant is free to go. The prosecution cannot refile the same criminal charge.

Again, in practice there are often situations where a court may grant a valid extension of a speedy trial deadline. For example, if the prosecution can demonstrate the nature of the case is especially complex, they may be granted additional time. Or if the defendant’s own conduct somehow contributed to a delay, that will not be held against the state.

Contact Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Jose Baez Today

Having any criminal charge hang over your head is a heavy burden. That is why it is important to ensure there are no unnecessary delays in hearing your case. If you need legal advice or representation from a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney, contact the Baez Law Firm today to schedule an initial consultation.

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