Most people have a general understanding that they have a Constitutional right to a “speedy trial.” What does that really mean, and how can it be utilized to help someone charged with a criminal case? Both the U.S. and Texas constitutions provide a speedy trial right. Meaning that the Government, whether that be the State of Texas or the Federal Government, must afford you a trial within a certain period of time or your right to a speedy trial has been violated. If your constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated, the law requires that the case against you be dismissed.
As you see, the violation of your right to a speedy trial is a serious matter that my lead to the dismissal of charges against you. When the Court is considering whether your right to a speedy trial has been violated, the Court considers 1) the length of the delay, 2) the reason of the delay 3) the assertion of the right to speedy trial and 4) the “prejudice” that you may have suffered as a result of the delay. The four factors I list all must be considered.
Courts have found delay to be “presumptively prejudicial” as it approaches one year. If your case has been pending for a year or more, that level of delay could be considered prejudicial to your speedy trial right. The second factor is the reason for the delay. If the reason for the delay is that the state was not diligent, that weighs in your favor. If the reason for the delay is that you took steps to delay resolution of the case, that weighs against you. The third factor, ” assertion of the right” means that you must actively make the court aware of the delay and demand speedy trial. The fourth factor deals with the prejudice you may have suffered. “Prejudice” can take many forms, even sometimes just anxiety and concern on the part of the accused. Prejudice does not necessarily require that you suffer some sort of impairment to your defense. Though prejudice may involve some apparent impairment of the defense, the law is clear that prejudice may involve only anxiety and concern, or expense or impairment of employment prospects.
The Constitution provides you with a number of important rights, one of which is your right to a Speedy trial. This right should be asserted where appropriate, and can sometimes result in the dismissal of the case against you. You should discuss speedy trial issues with a qualified attorney who can advise you about the likelihood that you may have a speedy trial claim.