Arrest and what constitutes a speedy trial

If you have committed a crime but have not been arrested or charged with the crime, you may be wondering what is taking so long.  You may have heard that you have the right to a speedy trial.  If that is the case, why are the police taking so long to arrest you?  And why have they not brought the case to trial?  After all, the right to a speedy trial means that the police have to arrest you within a certain amount of time, right?

The fact of the matter is that you may have a long wait before your “speedy trial” takes place.  The right to a speedy trial refers to the time after you have been arrested but before the trial takes place.  And you are correct that to have a speedy trial the trial must start within a certain amount of time.  But before we get into a discussion of the trial and what a speedy trial is, let us first consider the time until you will be arrested for having committed a crime.

In the case of having committed a crime, how quickly you are (or are not) arrested depends in large part on the statute of limitations for the crime.  For almost every type of crime, the police have a set amount of time when they can arrest you for the crime.  This amount of time is not a one-size-fit-all length but rather varies depending on the state where the crime occurred and the type of crime being considered.

The statute of limitations is in place to protect the rights of individuals.  First, evidence becomes less reliable over time; therefore, the statute of limitations is in place to incent the prosecution to bring cases to trial sooner rather than later.  Second, people in general have a certain right to be able to get on with their lives; they should not have to wait indefinitely to see if the police are going to come knocking on their door and arrest them.

For this second point above, I write “in general” because in certain cases there is no statute of limitations.  For the most serious felonies such as murder and certain crimes of a sexual nature, there may be no statute of limitations.  In other cases, the statute of limitations can vary depending on how serious the crime is.  For example, in the case of a DUI, the statute of limitations may be shorter if it is your first DUI than if it is your fourth DUI.  This is because with the increase in the number of DUIs on your record, the more likely your latest DUI will be considered a felony rather than a misdemeanor.  In general, the more serious the crime, the longer the statute of limitation is for prosecuting that crime.

Once you have been arrested for a crime, although you are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial, there is not a set timeframe for what constitutes a speedy trial as is the case with the statute of limitations for a crime.  Rather, what is considered a speedy trial will depend on the circumstances of the individual case.

  • If a case is complicated, the court will generally give the prosecution more time to gather witnesses and other evidence than if the case is simple.
  • If the defendant benefits from and agrees to a delay in the trial (because it benefits his defense in some manner), the court will allow a longer delay than if the defendant objects to a delay.
  • If the court does not believe a delay in the trial will impact the ability for the defendant to receive a fair trial, the court may allow a longer delay than if a delay is more likely to result in a guilty verdict against the defendant.

In summary, the police in general have a limited amount of time (known as the statute of limitations) during which they can arrest someone for a crime, and the statute of limitations can be for years or indefinitely for some crimes.  And while you have the right to a speedy trial, the court has a lot of flexibility in determining what is and is not a speedy trial.  In the end, if you want to know the statute of limitations or what constitutes a speedy trial for your case, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the laws of your state.

The article above was written by Mark J.

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Beth

Beth L. is a content developer for LeadRival, a cutting edge company that helps connect DUI lawyers with DUI clients. Beth L. writes about a variety of DUI topics to help drivers who have been arrested for DUI, getting them the legal help they need.

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