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What right does a person have to a speedy trial when charged with a felony?

Birch Run, MI |

I was charged with a felony, then charged with 2 others a year later! After two years, I still have not had my requested jury trial! What are my rights?

Attorney Answers 3


Generally, he right to a speedy trial is based on a few premises: (1) that a person should not be dealing with long term incarceration while awaiting trial, (2) that evidence can be lost, and (3) that witness memories can be diminished over time. It is a safeguard.

The word "Speedy" is relative. Without more details about your case, the more complex the case, the longer the parties typically need to prepare for trial. A felony is more complex than a misdemeanor, and some felonies are more complex than other felonies.

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The right to speedy trial is a difficult right to enforce because reasonable judges can disagree on when something is speedy. Moreover, reasonable judges can disagree on whether extensions of time for this or that reason are justified or not.

Your rights include having your attorney file a motion to dismiss based on denial of speedy trial. They also include having your attorney ask for a speedy trial by a date certain once the motion to dismiss is denied.

In People v Collins, 388 Mich 680 (1972), the Mich Supreme Court referred back to a US Supreme Court ruling:

"The issue in this case is whether defendant was deprived of his right to a speedy trial under the new rule set forth in Barker v Wingo, 407 U.S. 514; 92 S Ct 2182; 33 L Ed 2d 101 (1972) which reads: "A balancing test necessarily compels courts to approach speedy trial on an ad hoc basis. * * * Though some might express them in different ways, we identify four such factors: Length of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right and prejudice to the defendant.""

Ad hoc means that the cases are decided on a case by case basis, meaning that the judge has a lot of discretion to rule however he wants.

The more you have insisted on a speedy trial, the better off you are. The more you can establish prejudice (identifiable harm to your defense case) the better off you are.
The court ruled in People v Cleveland Williams, 475 MIch 245 (2006):

"Following a delay of eighteen months or more, prejudice is presumed, and the burden shifts to the prosecution to show that there was no injury."
Good luck.

Contact me at 248-399-6930 for a free consultation. You and I do not have an attorney-client relationship formed by our communications on this website. Advice given by me on this website is general advice based on partial information. You should not rely on any advice given without first hiring a lawyer in the area where the case is pending, and providing that lawyer with full information.

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The reasons for the delay are more important than the length.

Four factors to be considered in determining whether a defendant has been denied a speedy trial are: Length of delay, reason for delay, the defendant's assertion of right to a speedy trial, and prejudice to the defendant by the delay. Prior to 18 months of delay, burden is on the defendant to show actual harm. After 18 months, prejudice is presumed and the prosecutor must show there was no injury to the defendant. Justifiable reasons for a delay include appeal by the State, witness unavailability, and complexity of the case. Docket congestion is also included. There are also actions by the defendant that can weigh against them, like failing to appear, changing lawyers, defense adjournments, and pretrial motions. Keep in mind, you MUST assert your right to a speedy trial in order to make this argument and there must be an actual predjudice to you. This can include the fact that you're in jail awaiting your trial (but only on the charges that you're awaiting trial on), cannot prepare your defense, or your anxiety. I suggest that you see a local criminal defense attorney. If you already have an attorney, you need to bring your concerns to his/her attention. Good luck.

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