How Long Will My Case Take?
How long will my case take? It depends. The process of taking a case from arrest through trial can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the case.
All criminal defendants are entitled to the right to a speedy trial, which also affects how long a court case can take. This is mandated by the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution. For felonies, a defendant must be brought to trial within 270 days. Incarcerated defendants count every day incarcerated on that same case as three days – so if a felony defendant spends the entire time before trial in jail, he must have his trial within 90 days. In the rare case where the government misses this deadline, the case will be completely dismissed forever.
However, there are many things that can slow that down. In some cases, the defendant may want to waive that right. The attorney may need more time to investigate a witness or some new evidence, or the defendant may want more time to get a mental health evaluation. There are many good strategic reasons to waive speedy trial rights. Unfortunately, many attorneys are in the habit of always waiving speedy trial rights for no benefit to, and sometimes to the disadvantage of, their clients. Any time a person waives a constitutional right, there should be some benefit gained in exchange.
Besides a waiver, anything that the defense team does that needs time will delay, or “toll,” the speedy trial deadline. For example, filing what is known as a “motion to suppress evidence” delays the deadline by the amount of time it takes for the court to hear and rule on that motion. In some cases, defense counsel may ask for a “continuance” to postpone a court date, which will also toll speedy trial time.
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