What is a Speedy Trial and is it My Right?
One’s right to a speedy trial is guaranteed under both the United States Constitution (VI amendment) and the Minnesota Constitution (Article I, Section 6). In Minnesota, defendants hold the right to request a speedy trial. Once a plea other than “guilty” is entered and the demand for a speedy trial is made by a defendant or prosecutor, the trial is to begin within 60 days. The 60 day period begins to run on the day the plea is made, however, it may be extended for good cause. If one is in custody for a misdemeanor, the right to a speedy trial is enhanced to 10 days. In felony and gross misdemeanor cases, if the defendant has not pled guilty, an Omnibus Hearing must be held. After the commencement of the Omnibus Hearing, a party can demand a speedy trial.
You might be thinking, “60 days is not speedy!” Relatively speaking, you are correct. However, in the legal context, a lot must happen within those 2 months. Evidence must be requested and analyzed in detail, interviews of witnesses may be taken, and additional trial preparations by attorneys can make it tough to accomplish a thorough investigation within this time frame. Yet, sometimes, this short time frame is necessary and attainable.
What if you are denied the constitutional right to a speedy trial? If a convicted defendant can prove a violation of the right to a speedy trial, the court undergoes a balancing test. Here, the court balances the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, whether the defendant asserted his or her constitutional right to a speedy-trial, and whether the waiting period was disadvantageous to the defendant. If proven that your right to a speedy trial was violated, the court must set aside your conviction and vacate the sentence imposed. If the case has yet to go to trial, the court generally is required to dismiss the charges. Moreover, unless exigent circumstances exist, if a trial does not begin within 120 days from the date of a plea other than guilty is entered and the demand is made, the defendant shall be released.