Speedy Trial Clause

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The Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial...".[1] The Clause protects the defendant from delay between the presentation of the indictment or similar charging instrument and the beginning of trial.


In Barker v. Wingo (1972), the Supreme Court developed a four-part test that considers the length of the delay, the reasons for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right to a speedy trial, and the prejudice to the defendant. A violation of the Speedy Trial Clause is cause for dismissal with prejudice of a criminal case. Within these parameters, it was determined that the five-year wait for this case to go trial was not in violation of the Constitution. In response, in 1974, Congress passed the Speedy Trial Act.[2]

This Speedy trial clause protects defendants from waiting more than a certain amount of time for a trial.

Speedy trial statutes[edit]

In addition to the constitutional guarantee, various state and federal statutes confer a more specific right to a speedy trial. In New York, the prosecution must be "ready for trial" within six months on all felonies except murder, or the charges are dismissed by action of law without regard to the merits of the case. This is also known as a "ready rule".[3]

The federal law detailing this right is the Speedy Trial Act of 1974. All U.S. states have either statutes or constitutional provisions detailing this right.[4] In 1979 the Act was amended to ensure that the defendant had time to provide a suitable defense. This amendment made it so trial could not start within less than 30 days after the defendant first appeared in the court.[5]

Speedy trial cases[edit]

In Doggett v. United States (1992) the Supreme Court determined that Doggett's eight and a half year wait for a trial violated his sixth amendment rights.[6]

In Zedner v. United States (2006) the Supreme Court determined that a defendant cannot waive his right to a speedy trial using the Speedy Trial Clause because the clause protects all parties involved in a case to ensure that no one's interests are being implicated.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sixth Amendment". Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  2. ^ Shestokas, David J. (13 November 2014). "Sixth Amendment's Speedy Trial Right: Ancient, Worthy and Elusive". David Shestokas. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  3. ^ Gonnerman, Jennifer (6 October 2014). "Three Years on Rikers Without Trial". New Yorker. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  4. ^ "A Selected Bibliography and Comparative Analysis of State Speedy Trial Provisions" (PDF). National Criminal Justice Reform Service. Office of Justice Programs. August 1978. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Criminal Resource Manual 628. Speedy Trial Act". U.S. Department of Justice. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  6. ^ "Doggett v. United States 505 US 647, 112 S. Ct. 2686, 120 L. Ed. 2d 520 (1992)". Google Scholar. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  7. ^ "Zedner v. United States". Oyez. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Zedner v. United States, 547 US 489, 126 S. Ct. 1976, 164 L. Ed. 2d 749 (2006)". Google Scholar. Retrieved 28 September 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nicholaidis, N. (1989). "Sixth Amendment Right to a Speedy and Public Trial". American Criminal Law Review. 26 (4): 1489–1505. NCJ 122967.