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How Long Can A Criminal Case Be Delayed?

Posted in Criminal Defense on April 24, 2020

Most people understand that those facing criminal accusations have a constitutional right to a speedy trial. This right is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, and is applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

However, this does not mean that there will never be a delay in a criminal case. There are various factors that could lead to a delay that were set forth in the case Klopfer v North Carolina: length of delay, reason for delay, assertion of the right, and prejudice

Factor One: Length of Delay

There is no hard and fast rule set out in the US Constitution that defines how long is too long for a delay. However, one rule of thumb is eight months. Courts will usually presume they delay of this length has been sufficient to satisfy a defendant’s claim that their right to a speedy trial is being denied.

Factor Two: Reason for Delay

The court will always look at why a trial has been delayed. Some of the most common reasons for a trial delay are overcrowded court dockets, witness unavailability, and laboratory testing delays. The reasons for a delay will weigh for and against both sides. The court will also look at any continuances that have been granted, when they occurred, and by which side requested them. Another relevant factor will be whether the continuances were opposed by either party involved.

Factor Three: Assertion of the Right

When did the defendant assert their right to a speedy trial? This matters, because a defendant who waits two years to assert their right to a speedy trial will be in a worse position to make such a claim than someone who asserts their right to a speedy trial after eight months. It should also be noted that a defendant who asks for a dismissal of their case ahead of a speedily-held trial is not asserting their right in this case. If that happens, they are attempting to avoid criminal liability.

Factor Four: Prejudice

The court will also look to prejudice in the case. In other words, was the defendant harmed by a delay caused by the prosecution? For example, did a witness die or move away before they could be summoned to the trial? Did the delay lead to a fading of memories such that witnesses could no longer be reliable? This could all be evidence of prejudice against the defendant caused by a delay.

Contact an attorney as soon as possible

If you or somebody you love is facing criminal charges, domestic violence charges and your case has been delayed, you need to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Graham Donath, APC, our skilled and experienced team is dedicated to ensuring that everyone is treated fairly if they have been accused of crime. Our team will investigate any allegations against you and work to formulate a solid defense strategy. If your case is facing unreasonable delays, we will work to ensure that your right to a speedy trial is upheld. When you need a skilled criminal defense attorney, you can contact us for a consultation on your case by clicking here or by calling as soon as possible.