As a defendant in a criminal prosecution in the State of Florida, you have a number of Constitutional and statutory rights. One of those rights is the right to a speedy trial. Most people have heard of this right; however, it is frequently misunderstood and misused. Only an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney can review the facts and circumstances of your case and provide you with specific advice regarding your speedy trial right; however, a better understanding of the right to a speedy trial may be helpful to all defendants.
The right to a speedy trial originates in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution which states, in pertinent part:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…”
The reason the speedy trial clause was included was to prevent an accused from being held in custody for an indefinite period of time. The Sixth Amendment right was incorporated into Florida jurisprudence by the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.191. Section 3.191 addresses your rights with and without a demand for a speedy trial. Without making a demand for a speedy trial you have the right to be brought to trial on a misdemeanor within 90 days and a felony within 175 days. If you file an official demand for a speedy trial with the court you must be brought to trial within 60 days. The time frames mean that your trial must commence, not conclude, within the allotted time.
What most defendants do not realize is that many things can toll, or extend, the speed trial time frames, including, but not limited to:
• The defendant being unavailable
• Continuances requested by the defendant or a co-defendant
• Continuances requested by the State of Florida and agreed to by the defendant
• Exceptional circumstances
• Hearings on pre-trial motions
• Testing on DNA requested by the defendant
• Appeals by the State
• Hearings to determine the defendant's mental ability to stand trial
Anyone of the above reasons could stop the clock ticking on a speedy trial request. For this reason, it is important for a defendant to understand the ramifications of all motions filed with eh court and all strategies employed on his or her behalf.
Although no one wants to sit in jail while charges are pending, or even live out of custody with criminal charges hanging over their head, pushing for a speedy trial is not always in your best interests. Be sure to discuss your options with your Florida criminal defense attorney before you decide to request a speedy trial. To learn more, please download our free constitutional rights report.