Call For a Free Consultation 888.857.0511 317.857.0160
Keep up with the Latest in Your Legal Community. Enjoy the Informational Advantages at Our Blog

What is a "speedy trial"?

The term “speedy trial” is used often.  But what does it mean exactly?  In Indiana, if an individual is incarcerated and requests a speedy trial, they have the constitutional right to a trial within seventy days from the date the request is made.  This right is encapsulated within Criminal Rule 4.  The goal of that rule is “to provide functionality to a criminal defendant’s fundamental and constitutionally protected right to a speedy trial.”  Austin v. State, 997 N.E.2d 1027, 1037 (Ind. 2013) (citing Cundiff v. State, 967 N.E.2d 1026, 1027 (Ind. 2012); U.S. Const. amend. VI; Ind. Const. art. 1, § 12).   The rule places an affirmative duty on the State of Indiana to bring the defendant to trial, but it is not intended to be a mechanism for technical relief.  Id

There are exceptions, however.  Criminal Rule 4(D) allows an extension of the seventy-day deadline provided in Criminal Rule 4(B).  See Wilhelmus v. State, 824 N.E.2d 405, 411 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005).  If a judge satisfied that there is evidence for the state, which cannot then be had, that reasonable effort has been made to procure that evidence, then a continuance of the trial can be granted despite the individual remaining in custody past the 70 days.  See Chambers v. State, 848 N.E.2d 298, 302 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006).

 The question then becomes, what constitutes reasonable effort by the State to obtain evidence?  In Chambers, the Court of Appeals noted, “[i]nitially, the State made reasonable efforts to insure that the lab test results would be in its possession.”  Id. at 304.  However, after that testing was done in Chambers, there was no evidence that the State made any effort to contact the Indiana State Police Laboratory to find out when it would receive the results of the lab test.  Id.  The State cannot prospectively seek a continuance of a speedy trial without any demonstrable need, but simply asserting and assuming that a piece of evidence could not be had.

This issue often arises in cases where there may be a need for scientific testing of evidence.  For example, if the State is alleging that an individual is possessing illegal drugs, that almost always requires lab testing confirming that the substance is what the State claims it is.  Last year, it was reported that thousands of drug cases are creating overwhelming work for scientists in crime labs who are performing tests in criminal cases. At the Indiana State Police (ISP) crime lab, they’re noticing some of the highest number of drug cases they have ever see and it’s creating a backlog in the testing.  https://fox59.com/2017/11/14/indiana-crime-labs-dealing-with-backlog-due-to-increase-in-drug-cases/.  

In part because a defendant obviously has no control over how the State prepares it case or whether evidence testing is backlogged, he or she should not bear the burden for its failure to affirmatively seek out and test its evidence.  The case law in Indiana requiring an affirmative duty by the State to gather evidence and prepare for trial effective discourages passivity and unpreparedness in speedy trial cases.  Where a continuance might readily be granted in a case where a speedy trial was not requested, that same request may not be sufficient in a speedy trial case.

The stakes can be significant.  If a defendant’s right to a speedy trial is violated, then the proper remedy is discharge and dismissal of his or her case.   See Robinson v. State, 918 N.E.2d 692, 694–95 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009); see also See Poore v. State, 685 N.E.2d 36, 41 (Ind. 1997).  

If you have been arrested or think your constitutional rights were violated, contact the attorneys at Keffer Barnhart LLP today.  We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized history.  Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.