The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is what Florida’s Speedy Trial Rules are based upon. The right to a Speedy Trial is a fundamental right. It is designed to eliminate incarceration for long periods of time when one is accused of a crime. The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that persons charged with a crime will be brought to trial within 90 days of arrest where the crime charged is a misdemeanor and within 175 days where the crime charged is a felony. Rule 3.191(b) provides for a Defendant to demand a speedy trial in writing and when this occurs, he or she is entitled to trial within 50 days. Under this rule, such a demand signifies that the Defendant is prepared to proceed to trial within 5 days.
What happens if the state fails to conduct a trial within the statutory time periods?
Where the state fails too bring the accused to trial within the above referenced time periods, the Defendant is discharged (except for exceptions to the tolling of these time periods).
Should a Defendant demand a Speedy Trial?
Filing a demand can be risky, as a Defendant shortens any opportunity for additional investigation drastically. It also shortens the opportunity to prepare for trial or to negotiate with the state.
When does the time period for speedy trial begin?
Under Rule 3.191(a), Speedy Trial times commence when a Defendant is taken into custody or when a “Notice to Appear” is served upon a Defendant. For purposes of Speedy Trial, when an individual is served with a citation to appear for a criminal traffic offense, that service is considered to be the effective time for the commencement of the Speedy Trial time period.
What happens if the state violates the Speedy Trial Rules?
The answer depends upon whether or not the prosecutor has filed formal charges. Formal charges can include an indictment, an information, affidavits, docket entries, and notices to appear. In criminal traffic cases, the citation can serve as being formally charged under the Florida Traffic Court Rules, Rule 6.165(a). Where formal charges have been filed, a Defendant can file a “Notice of Expiration of Speedy Trial”. The trial court is required to hold a hearing no later than 5 days from the filing of the notice and the case must be brought to trial within 10 days except where there a reasonable excuse exists. Where the prosecution does not comply within this period (known as the “recapture period”) a permanent discharge will be in order after the Defendant files a Motion for Discharge. There are a number of exceptions to the recapture rule. An extension can be granted upon exceptional circumstances which can include: illness, incapacity, the unavoidable and unforeseeable absence of a witness, a showing by the prosecutor that the case is complex and requires more time for investigation or preparation, a showing that evidence is not yet available, or a showing by the prosecution that the Defendant is responsible for causing the delay. Where no formal charges have been filed within the Speedy Trial time period, a Defendant is entitled to the remedy of an immediate discharge.
Should I waive my Speedy Trial rights?
A Defendant can waive his or her right to a speedy trial. Doing so results in cancelling the protections of Rule 3.191. Waiver occurs by filing a waiver or request for extension of time, by signing a written waiver, delays caused by the Defendant, a request for an extension to conduct a further investigation or to find a witness, or simply stipulating to a particular trial date by the parties that is beyond the Speedy Trial period. The attorney can decide whether or not to waive Speedy Trial and he or she can even do so over a client’s objection.
Whether or not to waive Speedy Trial depends upon a Defendant’s strategy. A Defendant might waive Speedy Trial to investigate a case further, to prepare for trial, or for numerous other reasons. If you have been charged with a crime, and need assistance with a Speedy Trial issue, contact the Law Office of David N. Goldman, PLLC at (904) 685-1200.
About the author
Neil Weinreb is a licensed Florida attorney who has been practicing in the area of criminal law for over 17 years in North Florida. Mr. Weinreb works for the Law Office of David M. Goldman in Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. Weinreb has worked as an adjunct professor teaching law to paralegal students at Jones College in Jacksonville, Florida. You can contact Mr. Weinreb at the Law Office of David M. Goldman for a free initial consultation.