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NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 30 Issue: 3 Dated: (Spring 1993) Pages: 1239-1258
R S Susskind
Date Published
20 pages
This survey outlines the meaning and scope of the sixth amendment right to a speedy trial and the Speedy Trial Act of 1974.
The sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 protect a criminal defendant's right to a speedy trial. The sixth amendment mandates, in part, that "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial." The Speedy Trial Act of 1974 specifies time limits designed to protect a defendant's speedy trial right. To determine whether or not there has been a speedy-trial-right violation, a court must review four related factors: length of delay, reason for delay, defendant's efforts to facilitate a speedy trial, and prejudice to the defendant. The latter factor pertains to the prevention of oppressive incarceration, reduction in the accused's anxiety and concern for the case outcome, and a limitation on the impairment of defendant's ability to put on a defense. The only method to remedy a violation of the speedy trial right is to dismiss the case. Because this remedy is so severe, courts are hesitant to find that a constitutional violation has occurred. The Speedy Trial Act of 1974 specifies a 30-day time limit for indictment and a 70-day time limit for bringing a defendant to trial. Excludable periods of delay are in four general categories: delays caused by pretrial motions and interlocutory appeals, delays relating to defendants, delays caused by the unavailability of witnesses or defendants, and delays relating to continuances. In determining whether or not to dismiss a case with or without prejudice, the act's remedy provision states that a district court must consider three factors: the seriousness of the offense, the facts and circumstances of the case that led to the dismissal, and the impact of a reprosecution on the act and the administration of justice. 143 footnotes


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