The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects your right to a fair and speedy trial. Here is what that really means.
Our criminal justice system is designed to protect the public as a whole and to also ensure that those who are facing charges receive fair, equal treatment and that their rights are upheld during criminal procedures. In the case of every criminal prosecution, the defendant is entitled to the right to a fair and speedy trial of their accused crimes by an impartial jury.
When arrested on charges, waiting for a trial can feel like an eternity, even when there are laws in place that ensure it happens quickly. Here is what the best criminal defense lawyers in Dallas say you need to know about your right to a fair and speedy trial in Texas if you’re facing criminal charges.
The Speedy Trial Amendment
The protections that ensure every person facing charges is tried in a timely manner come from what we refer to as the speedy trial amendment. Both the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Texas State Constitution outline an individual’s right to a fair and speedy trial. (1)
To paraphrase the Sixth Amendment, the accused in all prosecution is entitled to enjoy the right to a public, speedy trial in front of a group of impartial jurors in the state and district that the accused crime was committed. The amendment also states that the accused shall be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to have a compulsory process for acquiring witnesses in his or her favor and to be confronted by the witnesses against him. The accused is also granted the right to have counsel present to assist with his or her defense. (2)
While these protections are important, they are missing one crucial detail – how “speedy” is defined in relation to a criminal trial. There are no clear cut guidelines on how quickly a defendant must face trial, and therefore it’s a topic that often becomes clouded with legalities.
Understanding Your Right to a Speedy Trial in Texas
Defendants in criminal cases often have questions about their right to a speedy trial in Texas. When each week or month of the waiting process becomes more difficult to endure, it’s natural to wonder what is and isn’t considered speedy. As mentioned, there are no hard and fast rules regarding the timeline in which a case must be tried. Each case is different, and so are the circumstances that determine when the trial will take place.
Still, the average time that is quoted by many defense attorneys hovers around 8 months, although this can be longer for complex cases or shorter for lesser crimes. When questioning whether or not a defendant’s right to a speedy trial has been violated, the court will take several factors into consideration before issuing their judgement. (3)
For instance, they will begin by looking at the amount of time that has passed since the defendant was arrested and how the length of their delay compares to the average time from arrest to trial for similar cases. They will also look at why the trial has been delayed and which party has been the primary cause. There is also the chance that the amount of time that has passed may have compromised the case – for instance, witnesses may no longer be available or may have forgotten key details due to the passing of time. Finally, the court will also consider if the defense has at any point asserted their right and asked for a speedy trial.
Should You Waive Your Right to a Speedy Trial
Considering that the majority of defendants want the trial portion of the criminal justice process to occur as quickly as possible, it might seem counterproductive to waive your right to a speedy trial, however, there are situations in which doing so might help you and your defense team achieve the best outcome.
For more complex cases, it can work to your advantage to have extra time to prepare your case, line up witnesses and possibly gain insight into the direction that the prosecution is taking with the case. As mentioned earlier, witness testimony can weaken over time, meaning it can also work in your favor if the prosecution’s witnesses are not as reliable or “sharp,” as they may have been had the trial happened sooner.
Waiving the right to a speedy trial is frequently a preferred strategy for defendants who are out on bail and under no immediate hurry to get the trial process underway.
Working with a Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are awaiting trial, it is your constitutional right to have the advantage of experienced legal counsel to help you defend your case. The most important first step is to contact a Dallas criminal defense attorney who can help you understand your right to a fair and speedy trial and what it means to your case. If your right to a speedy trial has been violated, the court is required to set aside the conviction, vacate the sentence and dismiss charges. An experienced attorney can recognize when this right has been violated and set in motion the process for protecting your rights.
If you are looking for the best criminal defense lawyer in Dallas County, call the Broden & Mickelsen, LLP today.
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Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case.