You Have the Right to a Speedy Trial: Understanding the Sixth Amendment

The Constitution grants you the right to a speedy trial. The Sixth Amendment reads: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial….” But what does this actually mean to someone facing criminal charges? It’s essential to understand the constitutional guarantee and state-specific laws regarding a speedy trial to understand your rights as the defendant. The Sixth Amendment is somewhat vague, but it’s in place so that you don’t have to wait in jail for long periods before your trial. The federal Speedy Trial Act further provides some instruction for federal cases.

In addition to the federal law, states often enact their own definition of a speedy trial, so there’s no one answer on when your case will be heard. A criminal defense lawyer can give you an idea of how long your waiting period will be based on the circumstances of your case. At Rose Legal Services, we’re dedicated to helping our clients through every legal system step. We understand that one mistake shouldn’t define the rest of your life, so we’re here to defend you, offer you support, and answer your questions. If you need a criminal defense attorney in St. Louis, contact Rose Legal Services today so we can get started on your case.

How Long Do You Have To Wait for a Trial in Missouri?

The right to a speedy trial is defined in the Missouri Revised Statutes.

Chapter 545, Section 545.780, reads:

  1. If a defendant announces that he is ready for trial and files a request for a speedy trial, then the court shall set the case for trial as soon as reasonably possible thereafter.
  2. The provisions of this section shall be enforceable by mandamus. Neither the failure to comply with this section nor the State’s failure to prosecute shall be grounds for the dismissal of the indictment or information unless the court also finds that the defendant has been denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

These statements denote two concepts that define a speedy trial in Missouri.

The first allows a defendant to announce when they are ready for a trial. They usually announce this through their legal representative. Following the defendant’s assertion of a speedy trial, the state is required to proceed within reasonable time limits. In Missouri, the request for a speedy trial must be granted within 180 days of the defendant’s demand. The second statement explains that if the courts agree that the defendant has been denied a speedy trial, their case may be dismissed. This is to protect people’s rights under the Sixth Amendment.

Advantages of Having a Speedy Trial

The Sixth Amendment exists primarily so that defendants, especially innocent people, don’t have to wait in jail for several months while they wait for their trial.

Of course, there are other advantages of a speedy trial, such as:

  • Your trial gets resolved sooner
  • The prosecutor has less time to prepare
  • Your lawyer can compile recent evidence
  • You can recall the events of the incident easier
  • Your stress can be reduced

Waiving Your Right to a Speedy Trial

If preferred, you can waive your right to a speedy trial. While there are many benefits to moving forward without unnecessary delay, there are also several reasons why you may want to forgo this right.

For example:

  • Your lawyer needs more time to create a defense strategy
  • Your lawyer needs help obtaining witnesses
  • If you are out on bond or bail, you can spend more time with family before your trial

The decision to waive your right to a speedy trial is ultimately up to you. However, it’s best practice to consult your criminal defense lawyer. They can advise you on whether or not you should give up your right to a speedy trial.

What Happens If Your Right to a Speedy Trial is Denied?

If you demand a speedy trial, and the courts do not provide you with one, your case can be dismissed. For this to happen, you must prove you’ve been denied a speedy trial with evidence.

The courts created four guidelines to determine whether your rights have been denied, including:

  • The length of the delay
  • The reason for the delay
  • Harm brought to the defendant due to the delay
  • Whether or not the defendant requested a speedy trial

Based on these guidelines, the courts may decide to dismiss your case as explained in Section 217.460.1 of the Missouri Revised Statutes.

Contact Rose Legal Services Today

You have the absolute right to a speedy and public trial under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. This allows your trial to proceed without waiting in jail for an unreasonable amount of time. A criminal defense lawyer can help you announce your demand for a speedy trial, and they can create a stellar defense strategy in time for your case. If you need a reliable criminal defense attorney in St. Louis, Missouri, contact Rose Legal Services. You can rest assured knowing you’re under our care.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Author Bio

Scott Rose, an experienced criminal defense lawyer and founder of Rose Legal Services, has been practicing law for over 20 years. He is dedicated to representing clients facing criminal charges and providing legal representation on various cases, including DWI, misdemeanor, and felony cases.

After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law, he gained valuable experience working for a United States Senator and as a Judicial Law Clerk for the Chief Judge of a United States District Court. Throughout his legal career, W. Scott Rose has committed to providing high-quality legal representation to his clients, earning him a spot in the National Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

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