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Speedy Trial Act of 1974 -- Dismissal Sanction for Noncompliance with the Act: Defining the Range of District Courts' Discretion to Dismiss Cases with Prejudice

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 79 Issue: 3 Dated: (Fall 1988) Pages: 997-1036
S Isaacson
Date Published
40 pages
This article discusses the implications of a recent Supreme Court decision to dismiss charges against a defendant under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 without prejudice.
The facts and procedural history of the case, United States v. Taylor, are detailed, as is the dismissal sanction of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974. Under the Speedy Trial Act, individuals arrested for criminal offenses must be indicted within 30 days and tried within 70 days after the indictment. Failure to meet these time restrictions results in mandatory dismissal of the charge. Courts are provided with a balancing test by the statute and are allowed discretion in deciding whether to dismiss with or without prejudice. In the Taylor case, the Supreme Court clarified certain aspects of the dismissal sanction by holding that there is no presumption that all dismissals should be with prejudice or that dismissals without prejudice were exceptions to the rule. Additionally, the Court held simple negligence by the government in failing to comply with the Act does not constitute a truly neglectful attitude, bad faith, or a pattern of neglect. Further, the Court held that a district court's discretion to dismiss a case with or without prejudice is subject to reversal if the balancing test has not been carefully applied. The article assesses the balancing test factors in light of the legislative goals and history of the Speedy Trial Act. 305 footnotes.


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