Demand for a Speedy Trial in Georgia
Defendants have a constitutional right and a state right to demand a speedy trial. The Sixth Amendment gives defendants this protection as well as George law under O.C.G.A. § 17-7-170. This means that there are two types of speedy trials: statutory and constitutional. A speedy trial indicates that the defendant is tried for the alleged crimes within a reasonable amount of time after being arrested. If the defendant is not tried when the demand for speedy trial is made or at the next regular court term, then the defendant shall be acquitted of the charges.
While many people want their case to resolve quickly, there are many factors to take into consideration before filing this type of demand. In some situations, it can be beneficial to have a large gap between the arrest and the trial. No decision should be made without speaking to an experienced Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney.
The right to a speedy trial does not apply until a person is formally charged, accused of a crime, or indicted. Furthermore, even though the right is a constitutional guarantee, state law usually determines what constitutes a reasonable time. In Georgia, a criminal defendant must be brought to trial within the second term of their arrest. However, the terms vary depending on the county. For instance, defendants Fulton County may have a shorter time period between court terms than in Walton County.
Constitutional Speedy Trial
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution states:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
The right to a speedy trial begins at the time the defendant is arrested, and charges are filed. If the defendant has not been arrested or formally charged, then the clock on getting a trial has not yet begun. In Georgia, the court has 2 years to file an accusation in a misdemeanor case and 4 years to indict a felony but once accused or indicted, the statute of limitations does not apply.
Constitutional speedy demand is based on case law and the 6th amendment. Essentially, so much time has passed that you have been harmed by the passage of time, such as witnesses have died, opportunities lost, etc. The four factors that the Court considers are the length and reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant. Baker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, (1972).
Statutory Speedy Demand
O.C.G.A. § 17-7-170 outlines speedy demands in Georgia:
(a) Any defendant against whom a true bill of indictment or an accusation is filed with the clerk for an offense not affecting the defendant's life may enter a demand for speedy trial at the court term at which the indictment or accusation is filed or at the next succeeding regular court term thereafter; or, by special permission of the court, the defendant may at any subsequent court term thereafter demand a speedy trial. In either case, the demand for speedy trial shall be filed with the clerk of court and served upon the prosecutor and upon the judge to whom the case is assigned or, if the case is not assigned, upon the chief judge of the court in which the case is pending. A demand for speedy trial filed pursuant to this Code section shall be filed as a separate, distinct, and individual document and shall not be a part of any other pleading or document. Such demand shall clearly be titled “Demand for Speedy Trial”; reference this Code section within the pleading; and identify the indictment number or accusation number for which such demand is being made. The demand for speedy trial shall be binding only in the court in which the demand for speedy trial is filed, except where the case is transferred from one court to another without a request from the defendant.
(b) If the defendant is not tried when the demand for speedy trial is made or at the next succeeding regular court term thereafter, provided that at both court terms there were juries impaneled and qualified to try the defendant, the defendant shall be absolutely discharged and acquitted of the offense charged in the indictment or accusation. For purposes of computing the term at which a misdemeanor must be tried under this Code section, there shall be excluded any civil term of court in a county in which civil and criminal terms of court are designated; and for purposes of this Code section it shall be as if such civil term was not held.
Similarly to the constitutional speedy demand, the right to a speedy trial does not activate until the case has been indicted. There are other trial demand motions that can be filed before accusation or indictment. If the accused is not tried at the next regular court term, then they will be discharged and acquitted of the charges.
Georgia courts have learned from mistakes in the past on speedy trial demands and now act on them very quickly. It is likely that you be moved to the front of any trial calendar. If you plan on filing the demand counting on Georgia courts to make a mistake and discharge your case, there is a strong chance you will not be successful. Furthermore, most prosecutors take the stance that once a speedy trial demand is filed that all negotiations have ended. Filing a speedy trial demand is an useful tool but must be done only after careful consideration of all the factors in the case.
Factors to Take into Consideration When Filing a Demand for a Speedy Trial in Georgia
There are many factors that you and your speedy demand lawyer in Georgia should discuss before filing this type of motion. Courts have learned from bitter experiences to respond quickly to speedy trial demands and try to act on them as soon as possible.
Depending on what type of crime you have been charged with is just one of the elements that dictate whether a speedy trial is appropriate for your case. When it comes to DUI trials, speed may not be the main priority and could actually be a detriment to obtaining the best outcome. It can be beneficial to allow time to pass between arrest and trial. Your arresting officer's memory may be less than sharp after the passage of time. Furthermore, the older the evidence is, the less compelling it might be in court. Allowing time to pass may result in a lack of evidence and your Georgia DUI Lawyer may be able to get your case dismissed.
On the other hand, getting to trial faster is very important for some people. A demand for a speedy trial may be beneficial for someone in custody who needs to get to trial. Another example is a person who needs a fast resolution of their case for work, family, or other purposes. No matter your situation, our attorneys in Atlanta and throughout Georgia are able to assist with your case.
Once a defense attorney files a demand for a speedy trial, whether statutory or constitutional, all negotiations with the prosecutor end. When negotiations break down, that can prevent a case from settling with a good outcome. Furthermore, the defense attorney and client must appear at all court dates without conflict and always announce ready, or it is waived. This means that the cost to the client can be extremely high to pursue because the attorney must charge not only for their time but also for all time they could be elsewhere. This also comes at a high cost to the client because they have to miss work or travel to be at all of the court dates. There is no leniency if a court date is missed.
There are restrictions when filing a demand for a speedy trial. A person may unintentionally waive the right to demand a speedy trial if they are not careful. If a defendant submits a motion for a continuance, fails to show up for a calendar call, or challenges the jury pool, then they waive their right to a speedy trial.
Lastly, the right to a speedy trial only applies between the arrest and trial of the accused. It does not apply between the conviction and sentencing phases of a criminal case.
In the right circumstances, a demand for a speedy trial can be an extremely useful tool. However, it should only be used after proper consideration of the case. Achieving the best resolution should be prioritized over obtaining a speedy one. Our Georgia speedy trial attorneys have years of experience and can help you weigh your options. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.