Protect Your Right to A Speedy Trial

March 24, 2022

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Protect Your Right to A Speedy Trial

The term “speedy trial” is frequently used, but what is a speedy trial? If you are arrested and charged with a crime, both the Constitution of the United States and Indiana Constitution give you a protected right to a speedy trial. In addition to understanding the definition of a speedy trial, it is important to understand how each parties’ actions may impact the speedy trial time frame.

Fortunately, the law provides protections for those defendants denied their speedy trial rights, but you need an experienced lawyer to understand when that right has been infringed and what you can do about it. The best protection is to have an Indianapolis criminal defense lawyer represent you as early in your case as possible, ideally from the time you are charged with a crime.

Indiana Criminal Procedure and the Right to a Speedy Trial

To understand the right to a speedy trial, it is important to understand the path of a criminal trial. The criminal trial process impacting your speedy trial right starts when you are charged with a crime. This occurs when the prosecutor files the charges with the court or a grand jury issues an indictment.

Following the charge, the court hold an initial hearing pursuant to Indiana Code chapter 35-33-7. At this hearing, the court informs the defendant of the exact charges and of the defendant’s rights, including the right to a speedy trial. The judge may also set bond or order the defendant to be held in jail until trial. Finally, the court may ask you to enter a plea—guilty or not guilty—although some courts will automatically enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf.

After the initial hearing, the path of a criminal trial includes:

  • The discovery process
  • Motions asking the judge or the prosecutor to take certain actions
  • Pre-trial conferences
  • Plea agreements
  • Trial
  • Sentencing

Successfully navigating each step of the criminal trial process requires help from an experienced Indianapolis criminal defense lawyer. Nowhere is this more important than in tracking the time required to take your case to trial. If the court or the prosecutor causes delays that prevent you from getting a speedy trial, the State cannot proceed to prosecute you.

What Is the Definition of a Speedy Trial?

Three main rules provide the definition of a speedy trial. In Indiana, these rules apply to the court case in different stages. Additionally, motions and certain instances may extend the speedy trial time frame. Below is more detailed information on each of these stages.

The Six-Month Rule: Six Months to Be Released from Time of Charge or Arrest

Rule 4 of the Indiana Rules of Criminal Procedure establish a six-month timeline for the defendant’s trial to begin. The clock starts from the later of the date of the arrest or the date the charge was filed. This does not mean the charge is dismissed, but the defendant must be released from jail while awaiting trial.

Under the six-month rule, the defendant does not need to object to a trial date set more than six months in the future. There are three situations that will not cause the six-month timeline to extend:

  • The defendant moves for a continuance
  • The defendant caused the delay that resulted in the trial date being beyond the six-month deadline
  • The court set the trial date beyond the six-month deadline due to a congested court calendar

Should the court delay the trial, the prosecutor must bring a motion for continuance stating the court needed to postpone the trial for calendar congestion. If the prosecutor files the motion for continuance less than ten days before the trial date, the prosecutor must show the delay is not the fault of the prosecutor.

The 70-Day Rule: Defendant Has a Right to Request an Early Trial

Under Rule 4(B) of the rules of criminal procedure, the defendant has the right to request an early trial. Any defendant held in jail on an indictment or a probable cause affidavit who requests an early trial must be discharged if the trial does not begin within 70 days of that request. However, for charges to be discharged due to lack of an early trial, the defendant must protect the right by taking the following steps:

  • File a written motion, or make an oral motion during a hearing, requesting an early trial
  • Immediately object to a trial date set past the 70-day deadline
  • Not act in a manner inconsistent with the motion for a speedy trial
  • Object to any continuances or delays
  • After the expiration of the 70 days, make a motion for discharge and dismissal with prejudice

During the 70-day period, the prosecutor may file additional charges or amend the charges. Should the prosecutor do so, the defendant must file a motion for a speedy trial for the additional or amended charges.

Requesting an early trial is a tool the defense may use to rush the state’s preparation of their case and evidence. Before requesting your right to an early trial, the defendant should ensure their defense is ready to go. Once the court grants a request for an early trial, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to push the trial date back.

The One-Year Rule: When It Applies

Rule 4(C) of the rules of criminal procedure require the state to try he defendant within one year. Like the six-month rule, the clock starts on the date of the defendant’s arrest or the date of charges being filed, whichever is later. The defendant has no responsibility to notify the court or take other steps to ensure that the trial begins within the one-year period.

As with the other speedy trial rules, conduct by the defendant that causes a delay in the trial date, including but not limited to requesting a continuance, do not count against the speedy trial deadline.

Should the defendant do anything to cause a delay during the last 30 days of any period, the state may petition the court to extend the period for an additional 30 days. As such, it is important to avoid causing any unnecessary delay, so there is no interruption to the defendant’s speedy trial right. An experienced Indianapolis criminal defense attorney understands the trial strategies to employ to protect your speedy trial right and to avoid compromising them.

The Impact of a Discharge on the Right to a Speedy Trial

The right to a speedy trial is fundamental to every defendant, and violation of this right results in the discharge of charges. When a defendant is discharged or eligible for discharge, the speedy trial right prohibits any new charges arising from the same incident. Therefore, the state may not re-file a case or add charges to reset the timeline.

However, if the state filed a separate charge in a case within a year from the first charge, the timeline applicable to the first charge does apply to the second charge. Instead, the clock for the one-year deadline starts from the second charge or arrest date.

There is an exception to the one-year limitation when the state’s evidence is temporarily unavailable. Should the state demonstrate to the court that the evidence will be available within 90 days, the one-year limitation can be extended. During this 90-day period, the defendant may be remanded or provided bail. Failure to be brought to trial before the end of the 90-day period result in a discharge.

A Motion for Continuance

While there is a time restriction for the right to a speedy trial, a motion for a continuance, or delay, can extend this timeline. The impact of a motion for a continuance depends on whether the defendant or prosecutor brings the motion.

A motion for a continuance may be used if either the prosecutor or the defendant cannot be ready to take the next step in a court case or cannot attend a hearing in court. The party seeking to have a date moved out must file a motion to continue, explaining the reason for the request. However, the court does not have to grant the motion.

Generally, when the state brings a motion for continuance, the time for a speedy trial does not change. But, when the defendant moves for a continuance and causes a delay, the delay does not count against their right to a speedy trial. As such, the time frame for calculating a speedy trial deadline is extended by the number of days’ delay resulting from the defendant’s motion.

The Right to a Speedy Trial: Federal Protections

In addition to the state constitution, the United States Constitution also guarantees the defendant a speedy trial. The Sixth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution provide a federal right to a speedy trial. In Barker v. Wingo, the federal court established the following four-part test to determine whether the defendant’s right to a speedy trial has been violated:

  • The length of the delay
  • The reason for the delay
  • Whether the defendant protested the delay
  • Whether the delay hurt the defendant’s ability to receive a fair trial

Unlike under Indiana state law, whether the defendant’s right was violated is not dictated by a pre-determined period under federal law analysis. As such, a short delay may be unconstitutional if the trial was intentionally delayed, or a long delay may be constitutional if it was caused by accident or uncontrollable events. The court must look at all the factors and weigh them to determine the fairness of the delay.

If you are charged with a crime, it is essential to understand and protect your speedy trial right. There are significant consequences when the court and state fail to provide the client with a speedy trial. But specific steps may be required to assert or protect your rights, and the failure to do so may waive them. An experienced Indianapolis criminal defense lawyer at Keffer Hirschauer LLP To protect your right to a speedy trial and help you seek discharge where it was violated. To learn how we can help protect your rights and implement successful defense strategies in your criminal case, contact us by calling (317) 857-0160 or complete our online contact form. The clock is ticking, so call now!

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