You have the right to a speedy trial. It’s an extremely powerful right. Violation results in the dismissal of all criminal charges – 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.
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.
Speedy trial gets most of its power from a New York statute: Section 30.30 of the Criminal Procedure Law (“Thirty-Thirty”, as it’s often called in court).
Thirty-Thirty imposes specific time limits on prosecutors. District Attorneys must be “ready for trial” before these time limits expire. The limits are measured from the “commencement” of the case – usually the date of arraignment:
- Where the top charge is a “felony” (a crime that can be punished by more than one year in jail), the DA must be ready for trial within 6 months .
- Where the top charge is a “class A misdemeanor” (a crime that carries a maximum punishment of one year in jail), the DA must be ready for trial within 90 days.
- Where the top charge is a “class B misdemeanor” (a crime that carries a maximum punishment of 90 days in jail), the DA must be ready for trial within 60 days.
- Where the top charge is a “violation” (a non-criminal offense that carries a maximum punishment of 15 days in jail), the DA must be ready for trial within 30 days.
Thirty-Thirty applies to all crimes charged under New York State law, except for certain homicide charges. Many courts have determined that Thirty-Thirty doesn’t apply to “traffic infractions”.
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 speedy-trial violations.
Further, many prosecutors engage in gamesmanship that causes speedy-trial time to accumulate at a much slower pace than it should.
Despite such limitations, though, New York courts frequently dismiss cases due to speedy-trial violations. Speedy-trial violations might account for more serious cases getting dismissed in New York than any other cause.
Speedy trial is an extremely powerful right. Make sure your lawyer explains how it might affect the outcome of your case.