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How To Use Your Speedy Trial Rights To Your Advantage In A Criminal Case

Almost every person has heard that they have the right to a speedy trial in a criminal case. However, most people do not understand what this actually means and, more importantly, how to use these rights to their advantage.

Speed Trial Law In Florida

In the state of Florida, the state must take you to trial within 175 days of your arrest if you have been charged with a felony and within 90 days of your arrest if you have been charged with a misdemeanor.  If the state does not take you to trial within the proscribed period of time, you can file a “Notice of Expiration of Speedy Trial”.  The court must then set the case within 5 days from the filing of your notice.  The court must then set the case for trial within 10 days of that court date.  If you are not brought to trial within 10 days, you will be forever discharged for that specific crime.

When To Use Speedy Trial To Your Advantage

The decision to assert your speedy trial rights is an important decision that should be made by you with the advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney.  The decision should not be taken lightly.  The reward in demanding a speedy trial could be great:  your case could be dismissed. However, when you make the decision to push the state to trial, you are also accepting certain risks. First, when you demand a speedy trial, you are claiming that you are ready for a trial. Therefore, it will be very unlikely that the judge will continue your case in the event that the state is ready on the day of trial.  Second, demanding a speedy trial generally forecloses any opportunity to plea bargain with the state.  After you file a demand for speedy trial, the state will more than likely revoke all offers on your case.  You will be left with an all or nothing gamble:  win or lose?

Therefore, there are several key questions that need to be asked to determine whether demanding a speedy trial is in your best interest:

1.  Will the state be ready for trial within the speedy trial time period?

The state has more cases than they can handle.  They are underfunded.  They are overworked. Sometimes, you can take advantage of that.  There are several common factors that could indicate that the state might have a problem in being prepared during the speedy trial time period.

First, the state could have a witness problem.  If the state needs a non-officer witness to prove an essential element of your crime (Example:  wheel witness in a DUI case), there is an increased chance that they could have a witness problem.  Sometimes they move.  Sometimes they can’t miss work.  Sometimes they have childcare issues.  Sometimes they simply don’t get the subpoena.  The bottom line is that witnessess that are non members of law enforcement are simply less likely to go to court.

Second, the state could have a problem testing evidence.  If the state needs certain evidence tested to prove an essential element of your crime (Example:  DNA evidence that you were in the house for a burglary case), then they might not be able to complete the testing within speedy trial.  The agency that performs most of the state’s forensic tests, FDLE, is backed up with evidence testing requests. If the state cannot test essential evidence in your case in time, it might be in your best interest to demand a speedy trial.

2.  What are the consequences if I lose at trial?

When you assert your speedy trial rights, you are also asserting that you are ready for trial. Therefore, the judge is unlikely to give you a continuance if the state is prepared.  So, you must consider what the penalty will be if you lose at trial.  If you are a first time offender, the risk in demanding a speedy trial and losing might be minimal.  However, if you have a lengthy criminal record, the risk in demanding a speedy trial and losing could be a maximum sentence.  A person that faces substantial jail or prison time might be better off plea bargaining rather than pushing the state to trial.

Disclaimer:  Please note that by reading this blog you are not entering into an attorney-client relationship with Hubbs Law, P.A. This blog only provides general legal information.  Every case is different and you should request a free consultation to ensure that you are getting the correct legal advice for your specific case.