Both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions guarantee the right to a speedy trial for all individuals who are accused of committing a crime. As a result, if a defendant requests a speedy trial and the prosecution causes unjustified delays in the trial process, the defendant may be entitled to dismissal of the charges against him or her on constitutional grounds. The reality is, however, that an outright dismissal for failure to ensure a speedy trial is very rare. Courts historically have been very reluctant to dismiss criminal charges on this basis, which places a huge burden on the defendant in asserting deprivation of the right to a speedy trial.
Unfortunately, there is no standardized definition of what constitutes a speedy trial. As a practical matter, the time that elapses between an arrest and trial can be damaging to the cases of both the prosecution and the defense. The more time that goes by, the greater the damages may be. Evidence may vanish, witnesses may disappear, die, or forget their testimony, which can cause prejudice to the ability of the defendant to establish a strong defense at trial.
The U.S. Supreme Court has identified four factors that courts must evaluate in a case where the defendant is alleging deprivation of his or her right to a speedy trial. These factors include:
• The length of time between arrest and trial
• The reasons for any delays
• Whether a defendant asked for a speedy trial in a timely fashion
• The prejudice to the defendant’s case as a result of the delay
No one factor is determinative; the court reviewing the case must weigh these factors equally on a case-by-case basis. The burden is on the defendant to prove that he or she timely asked for a speedy trial and did not receive a speedy trial, which prejudiced his or her rights or otherwise impaired the defense. The prosecution need only prove that any delays were justified.
An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.