What Is Considered a “Speedy Trial” in Florida?
The Constitution guarantees all criminal defendants the right to a “speedy trial.” But what does “speedy” actually mean? That largely depends on where you are tried for a given crime. For example, when a defendant is tried in federal court, Congress has said a trial must begin within 70 days of the defendant’s indictment or first appearance in court, whichever is later. But in state criminal cases, Florida law says a trial is speedy if it begins with 90 days (for a misdemeanor) or 175 days (for a felony) following the defendant’s arrest.
The Necessary Elements of an Arrest
An arrest, for speedy trial purposes under Florida law, does not necessarily mean a formal arrest. Florida courts have held there are only “four necessary elements” to trigger an arrest for purposes of starting the clock on the speedy trial rule:
- There was a purpose or intention to effect an arrest of the defendant under a real or pretended authority.
- There was an actual or constructive seizure or detention of the defendant.
- The arresting officer communicated to the defendant their intention to effect an arrest.
- The defendant understood that the arresting officer’s intention was to arrest and detain them.
The Florida First District Court of Appeal recently elaborated on these elements in a case, Gilliam v. State, where the defendant successfully moved to discharge a pending criminal charge against him due to the state’s failure to comply with the speed trial rule.
This case began in 2018. Duval County previously issued a warrant for the defendant’s arrest on a felony charge. In August 2018, an officer in St. Lucie County stopped the defendant and learned of the outstanding warrant. The officer then arrested the defendant initially based on the Duval County warrant. However, while searching the defendant following the arrest, the officer found illegal drugs.
St. Lucie County then formally booked the defendant on these new drug charges, not the original Duval County warrant. The defendant remained in jail in St. Lucie for 16 months while the drug charges remained pending. In December 2019, St. Lucie County released the defendant to Duval County, which then booked him on the original warrant. Prosecutors did not formally charge the defendant in the case until February 2020.
The defense moved to dismiss the case, pointing out that since the defendant was first arrested on the Duval County warrant in August 2018, the state had to bring him to trial within 175 days, or no later than February 2019. Prosecutors argued the initial arrest did not count “since he was not advised of the [Duval County] warrant” during his initial court appearance in St. Lucie County.
The First District found this argument nonsensical. “The fact that [the defendant] was not booked on the Duval County warrant or advised of the warrant at first appearance in St. Lucie’s County is not dispositive,” the Court observed. Rather, what mattered was that the police “actually detained” the defendant on the Duval County warrant. More to the point, when the St. Lucie police first detained the defendant, he was expressly told it was due to the outstanding Duval County warrant. That arrest was therefore sufficient to trigger the 175-day speedy trial deadline.
Contact Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Jose Baez Today
If you are facing criminal charges, you have the right to insist that the police and the courts follow the law. A qualified Orlando criminal defense lawyer can help you in this regard. Contact the Baez Law Firm today if you need legal advice or representation.