Table of Contents
Your Right to a Speedy Trial
You have the right to a speedy trial. It’s an extremely powerful right.
It’s a constitutional right. It’s a statutory right.
Your right to a speedy trial requires the prosecutor to be ready to start trial within a certain time frame after case against you begins in court.
The prosecutor’s inability to be ready for trial on time can result in dismissal or pretrial release.
When the District Attorney violates your right to a speedy trial the charges against you get dismissed – your case is over; sealed; a legal nullity.
Even if the prosecutor possesses strong evidence tending to prove guilt, violation of your right to a speedy trial must result in dismissal.
Your Constitutional Right to a Speedy Trial
Under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy . . . trial”.
Similar provisions exist under New York law. However, very few cases get dismissed due to “constitutional” speedy-trial claims.
Your Statutory Right to a Speedy Trial
Speedy trial gets most of its power from a New York statute: Section 30.30 of the Criminal Procedure Law (often called “thirty-thirty” in criminal courts).
Thirty-thirty imposes specific time limits on prosecutors. District Attorneys must be “ready for trial” before these time limits expire.
Thirty-Thirty applies to all crimes charged under New York State law, except for certain homicide charges.
Counting Speedy-Trial Time
Statutory speedy trial time limits are measured from the “commencement” of the case – usually the original date of arraignment. The Court must dismiss all charges if the prosecutor is not ready for trial within:
- 6 months where the top charge is a felony (a crime that may be punished by more than one year in jail).
- 90 days where the top charge is misdemeanor punishable by more than 3 months in jail.
- 60 days where the top charge is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 3 months in jail.
- 30 days where the top charge is a violation (a non-criminal offense that may be punished by a maximum of 15 days in jail).
All Days Are Not Created Equal
Not each day that goes by on the calendar necessarily counts as speedy-trial time. Thirty-Thirty excludes certain periods.
For example, where a defendant consents to adjourn the case to a future date, the period of adjournment is excluded from the calculation of speedy-trial time. Due to excluded time, many cases continue for years without accumulating enough speedy-trial time to result in dismissal.
Further, many prosecutors engage in gamesmanship that causes speedy-trial time to accumulate at a much slower pace than it should.
A Powerful Right
Despite such limitations, though, New York courts frequently dismiss cases due to speedy-trial violations. Speedy-trial violations might result in dismissal of more serious cases in New York than any other cause.
Your right to a speedy trial can be extremely powerful. Make sure your lawyer explains how it might affect the outcome of your case.
Speedy Trial Release
New York’s statutory speedy trial right also has a release-from-jail remedy, with shorter time frames than the dismissal remedy.
Where a defendant is held in jail awaiting the outcome of a criminal action, the Court must release the defendant from pretrial detention if the prosecutor is not ready for trial within:
- 90 days where the top charge is a felony (a crime that can be punished by more than one year in jail).
- 30 days where the top charge is misdemeanor punishable by more than 3 months in jail.
- 15 days where the top charge is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 3 months in jail.
- 5 days where the top charge is a violation (a non-criminal offense punishable by a maximum of 15 days in jail).
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