Your Right to a Speedy Trial

How Quickly Will The Federal Criminal Process Go?

You are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial to address criminal charges by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If you are facing a federal criminal charge, your trial must begin within 70 days of indictment, subject to some exceptions.

Want to know about your rights because you're facing federal charges? Call 800-760-9071 or send us an email to request a consultation with federal defense attorney Patrick Roberts. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Patrick Roberts consults with people across the U.S.

Your Right To A Speedy Trial

Your right to a speedy trial is automatic. You do not have to request a quick resolution of your case to trigger the federal Speedy Trial Act or Constitutional protections, although the timing of any demand may be a factor in determining whether your case should be dismissed for a violation.

If the 70-day limit in federal court is violated, you have the right to move for dismissal of the charges you face. If you do not file a motion for dismissal based on a violation of your speedy trial rights before trial starts, you will lose your opportunity to do so.

Expert Tip: The 6 th amendment right to a speedy trial does not apply until a formal indictment, information or arrest has taken place. Generally, defendants are protected from substantial pre-indictment delays by the applicable statute of limitations. However, pre-indictment delays can be grounds for a dismissal under the 5 th amendment's due process clause, even if the statute of limitations has not run, if the delay prejudiced the defendant's right to a fair trial and if there is not a valid reason for the delay. United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307 (1971); United States v. Lovasco, 431 U.S. 783 (1977).

Delays In Trial That May Not Violate Your Right To A Speedy Trial

In general, your own actions or the actions of your defense counsel that result in a delay of your trial cannot be used to prove a speedy trial violation. For example, if your attorney requests a continuance (like rescheduling a court date to a later date), causing your trial date to be pushed out, your right to a speedy trial is not violated.

If you are unavailable for a court date or your lawyer is unavailable and your trial date is pushed out, your speedy trial rights are not violated. You also may not benefit from your own misconduct if it causes a trial delay.

When a delay is unreasonable and is prejudicial to your case, a dismissal on speedy trial grounds may be appropriate. A delay caused by an unavailable witness may not be a violation of your speedy trial rights, but a federal prosecutor who requests a delay because your file was lost may be an actionable violation. The prosecutor is also not allowed to benefit from his or her own misconduct.