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Speedy Trial Act of 1974 - Effects on Delays in Federal Criminal Litigation

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 73 Issue: 1 Dated: (Spring 1982) Pages: 50-73
G S Bridges
Date Published
24 pages
Empirical findings indicate that although Federal courts have achieved relatively high levels of compliance with the Speedy Trial Act's time limits during the past 5 years, only slight improvements have occurred in the actual time elapsed in processing cases.
This study relied primarily on empirical data provided by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The data include district-by-district information on levels of compliance with the Speedy Trial Act's time limits, the use of exclusions and discretionary continuances, and the overall elapsed time from filing to disposition for defendants in criminal cases. Increase in compliance with the act was closely associated with increased application of the act's provisions of excluded processing time. The median elapsed time among all criminal cases from filing to disposition was relatively constant between 1977 and 1981, with a major decline in elapsed processing time occurring only among the slowest cases handled in Federal courts. The overall small reduction in median case processing time may stem from the general interests of litigants and courts in delay as well as their reaction to perceived consequences associated with achieving the speedy trial goal. Some observers suggest that perceived consequences of significant reduction in case processing time may include heightened pressures for prosecutors to decline minor criminal cases, less thorough defense preparation, and more frequent and longer delays in civil cases. The findings suggest that litigants and courts may have lessened the perceived burden of achieving substantial reductions in delays in criminal cases through frequent and successful application of the act's provisions for excluded time. Sixty-nine footnotes are listed.