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What is a Speedy Trial?

Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191 guarantees the right to a speedy trial in state court. The speedy trial rule says that, unless waived, the government must try the defendant in a criminal case within 175 days of arrest for a felony and 90 days of arrest for a misdemeanor. If the defendant is not tried within that time, the charges will be dismissed upon motion by the defense.

It is always better to have a fair trial than a fast one.

Often, the defense waives the right to a speedy trial because the attorney needs time to prepare the defense properly. Frankly, this is usually a good idea, at least as it pertains to more serious charges. The good news is that the speedy trial rule allows a defendant who has previously waived his or her right to a speedy trial to demand the right back once the defense is ready for trial. When that demand is filed by the defense, the state must try the defendant within 60 days of the date of that demand. Again, failure to do so will result in dismissal of the charges.

The Federal Constitution also guarantees the right to a speedy trial. The Constitutional right to a speedy trial is much less stringent and depends largely on a question of reasonableness.

As a practical matter, motions to dismiss on speedy trial grounds are rarely granted. This is because the judge and the prosecutor are very much aware of the requirements and will be sure to schedule your trial within the appropriate time frame. That being said, the speedy trial rule in state court can often be used to limit the amount of time the prosecutor has to get his or her case together. Specifically, this becomes an issue in cases where government witnesses are reluctant to come to trial and are attempting to avoid the prosecutor’s efforts to contact them. This situation most often arises in domestic violence cases and cases involving witnesses who are gang members, drug dealers, and drug addicts.

For more details about the state speedy trial rule, see Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191.

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