Speedy trial is a very important right that comes up in every criminal case. There are two types of speedy trial that every criminal defendant must be aware of. They both deal with the notion that government in criminal cases cannot just charge someone with a crime and leave it pending indefinitely.
The first is the constitutional speedy trial right that comes from the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This right has to do with bringing the case to trial after the investigation has been completed and not waiting forever. A common example would be, where a person has been arrested for a crime, charged by the State, and released on bond. The accused than fails to appear for a court date and a warrant is issued for his arrest. Years go by without the government looking for the accused person or trying to serve the warrant. The main case from the United State Supreme Court dealing with this issue is Barker v. Wingo, 92 S. Ct. 2182 (1972).
The second type of speedy trial, and the most common in Florida criminal cases, is the speedy trial which comes up under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191 – Procedural Speedy Trial in criminal cases.
This rule of criminal procedure provides that in every felony case (crimes punishable by more than 1 year), the defendant has a right to demand that the state bring him to trial within 175 days. For misdemeanor cases (both 1stand 2nd degree misdemeanors) that number is 90 days of date of arrest or from the date of being charged.
The right to a speedy trial should never be taken lightly, and demands strategy and a lot of thought. In some cases the accused person a criminal case will want demand speedy trial, so that the trial can begin before the 90 days or the 175 days deadline. Again, this is a strategic decision on the part of the defendant and his attorney. But in the majority of Florida criminal cases, speedy trial is waived by the criminal defendant, and most the time people don’t realize how important it is. Waiver of speedy trial is not in the Rules of Criminal Procedure, but it can be found in cases. Sometimes, a defendant waives his speedy trial right without realizing it, by agreeing to the next court date outside the speedy trial deadline. So, for example the judge may say your next pretrial date will on day 178, and an attorney or the client don’t realize it, and the defendant has waived his speedy trial right, just like that.
Another commons example, when speedy trial is waived is when a defendant is offered a pretrial diversion program or PTI. This means that the State decided that the case qualifies for this program, and will set certain conditions for the defendant. If those conditions are successfully completed with a certain period of time, the State will drop the charges. Inevitably, the contract with the State will include a waiver of speedy trial and you must be aware of it, since there is no turning back. Obviously if a PTI is offered and it is something the defendant can and wants to do, the waiver is a conscious choice and in that situation is likely for the benefit of the person.
On the other side of this are the very serious cases of drug trafficking or perhaps murder, where 175 days may not be enough to adequately prepare for trial. So, in those cases, the Defendant frequently waives speedy trial in order to have more time to prepare his defense for trial.
Speedy trial can be shortened by filing a demand for speedy trial, under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191(b). Two important Florida cases deal with the shortening of speedy trial: Lasker v. Parker, 513 So. 2d 1374 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1987) and State v. Velasquez, 802 So. 2d 426 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2001). The cases provide that the defendant in a criminal case must have a bona fide desire for the trial.