A speedy trial is a legally guaranteed right in Pennsylvania. However, do not assume that criminal courts will move your trial date up. A speedy trial in Pennsylvania means that they have to try you within a certain amount of time or your case is dismissed. If your court date is within that time, you cannot ask for a faster court appearance.
You may hire a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia to guide you through the legal process and keep track of case deadlines. If the court overseeing your criminal case exceeds the deadline for starting a trial or causes other unnecessary or lengthy delays, your attorney may file motions to move the legal process forward.
Pennsylvania Statutes Guarantee the Right to a Speedy Trial
234 Pa. Code Rule 600 explains your right to a “prompt” trial. This statute states that:
- In criminal cases where a defendant is not subject to pretrial incarceration, a trial must begin no later than 365 days after the criminal complaint is filed.
- In criminal cases where a defendant is subject to pretrial incarceration, a trial must begin no more than 180 days after the criminal complaint is filed.
In some cases, the time limit for starting a trial begins from a different point (as opposed to the day the court receives a criminal complaint).
For instance, some first-time offenders participate in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program to dismiss the criminal charges against them. If the defendant violates the terms of the ARD program, the court may transfer their case to a criminal court.
In this case, the court must hold a trial within 365 days (or 180 days in the case of pretrial incarceration) from the termination of the defendant’s participation in the ARD program.
Federal Statutes Reinforce Your Right to a Speedy Trial
The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution also affirms your right to have a speedy trial. This statute:
- States that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.”
- Protects you against “undue delay” in criminal prosecution
The U.S. Constitution also affords other protections against delays in a criminal trial, including the Due Process Clause. Both state and federal statutes guarantee your right to a speedy trial. It is your criminal defense lawyer’s job to ensure you get the speedy trial you are entitled to.
For a free legal consultation, call 215.515.3360
Extensions and Exceptions May Affect the Speedy Trial Clock
While you can generally rely on a 180-day or 365-day deadline for starting your trial (depending on whether you’re incarcerated before your trial), some exceptions exist.
The greatest threat to timely case resolution comes when a court grants continuances, which either the prosecution or defense may request. 231 Pa. Code Rule 216. lists potential grounds for continuance, which include:
- Illness affecting someone critical to the case, such as an attorney or witness
- Inability to obtain a witness’s testimony before the deadline for trial expires
- Unavoidable scheduling conflicts
Requesting a continuance is a multi-step process, and your lawyer will fight against any continuance they believe unnecessarily delays trial proceedings.
If your defense attorney requests a continuance, this will likely extend the deadline for starting a trial. If the prosecution requests the continuance, your attorney may still argue that the 180- or 365-day trial deadline should remain. They may argue that you should not have to wait for trial because the prosecution has caused a delay.
How to Ensure the Court Honors Your Right to a Speedy Trial
Leave it to a criminal defense lawyer to guarantee your right to a speedy trial. If the prosecution does not begin your trial by the legally mandated deadline, they may file a motion to dismiss your charges based on a lack of prosecution.
If we can prove that the prosecutor (or Commonwealth) is at fault for any delays that have prevented them from starting a trial, the judge may:
- Dismiss your charges
- Grant a continuance
- Allow the prosecution to move forward with a trial
In any case, we will take appropriate legal action to ensure you receive a speedy trial or no trial at all.
Why Is the Right to a Speedy Trial So Important?
There are many reasons why the Founding Fathers and designers of Pennsylvania law ensured criminal defendants the right to have their trials occur within a reasonable time. You must exercise your right to a speedy trial because:
- You should not have to face criminal proceedings indefinitely: Even if you don’t face pretrial incarceration, a looming criminal trial is stressful. You have a reasonable expectation that, whether by trial or other means, you will move past the criminal justice process in a reasonable timeframe.
- A criminal complaint must stand on its own merits: Once a prosecutor files a criminal complaint against you, the prosecution has either six months or a year to finalize its case. The state is not allowed to indict and continue to investigate defendants indefinitely. If a prosecutor files a criminal complaint, the prosecutor must resolve that complaint speedily.
- Criminal proceedings cost taxpayers money: The American Bar Association (ABA) explains that witnesses and taxpayers also deserve speedy criminal trials. Witnesses involved in criminal proceedings may face significant inconvenience—and the longer the case goes on, the greater the inconvenience. Taxpayers ultimately pay for the prosecution’s side of the case, and a longer prosecution generally means more cost to the taxpayers.
For a defendant, the primary goal of a speedy trial is to resolve a serious matter that is likely causing distress.
Just as important as a speedy trial is a competent legal defense. A Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer from our firm will seek to resolve your case quickly and effectively.
Call the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC Today for a Free Criminal Defense Consultation
Regardless of the circumstances of your criminal charges, your case should not be in limbo. You have the right to a speedy trial, and a criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC will ensure you receive a speedy and fair trial.
We will use all the time you provide us to build your defense. Contact the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC today to complete your free consultation. We represent clients charged with various criminal offenses, from driving under the influence (DUI) to gun-related offenses, assault charges, and more. Let us fight for you.