What is Speedy Trial? Is my case likely to go to a Jury Trial?
I recently wrote a blog on the evaporation of speedy trial in King County District Courts but here I will explain what the speedy trial rule is (at least in theory).
What is Speedy Trial?
First, the speedy trial rule is outlined in CrRLJ (Criminal Rules for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction) 3.3 - you can view that by clicking here. The rule essentially stands for the proposition that a defendant has the right to have their case brought to trial within a specific period of time and if it is not the case is dismissed with prejudice. Now that sounds pretty good for a defendant worried about the government dragging out a case over the course of a year or more, but in reality the speedy trial rule is really non-existent. Why? Well because there are so many exceptions to the rule that the government can even mishandle their case load and get a free pass on the rule - read my blog about that here.
A defendant held in custody on a DUI in Washington State has the right to have his or her case heard before a jury within 60 days from the date of arraignment. A defendant out of custody has 90 days. The Court is responsible for the applicability of the rule. Now the court can make discretionary rulings which may extend the time for trial such as when a integral witness is unavailable for "good cause" or when one party has not provided discovery timely, etc. However, there are times when I feel the court abuses that discretion, such as when the court implements a "cure period" due to "court congestion" or when a defense attorney complains about the violation of their client's right to a speedy trial and the court "starts the trial" on its own by simply making one ruling on a motion in limine, then sets the case out several months (because once the trial starts there is no more right to a speedy trial). If a court takes one of those positions, it is, in my opinion, working in collusion with the government and abusing its discretion.
So speedy trial exists in theory but, if a court can on its own extend a case because the State botched the time by giving them an additional 28 days of speedy trial under the cure period, or grant a good cause continuance because of the unavailability of a witness (because they "are sick") then speedy trial is superfluous.
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