The Speedy Trial Rule in Florida (Criminal Procedure Rule 3.191) states that a person who has been arrested has the right to a speedy and public trial, and that their trial must occur within:
It is possible to demand speedy trial if you are or will be able to be prepared to go to trial within 60 days. On the other hand, it is also possible to waive your right to speedy trial if your case is complex or will benefit from the extra time. But we'll get to the details of the speedy trial in a moment. First, check out our speedy trial calculator to see how demanding speedy trial will affect the date of your, your loved one's, or your client's trial.
There are no silver bullets in criminal defense work—there is no trial by ambush in State Court, very few "get out of jail free" from mistakes an officer can make, and no, not reading Miranda does not create a miraculous victory. Most trial wins come from decent facts "earned" by intensive preparation, thorough discovery, and deposition, combined with in-depth legal research and a willingness to work hard. Hard work is key to a successful defense; as I often teach other lawyers, the State is a behemoth and you cannot meet them head on in a field of battle of their own choosing. You must wage guerrilla warfare and use your speedy and maneuverability to strike vicious blows and topple the titan. To this end, Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 3.191, “Speedy Trial,” is a key weapon in the trial lawyer's arsenal if you are daring enough to use it.
For non-lawyers, the Speedy Trial Rule is the embodiment of the concept that an accused person has the right to a speedy and public trial. With origins in the Magna Carta, our Founding Fathers enshrined in the 6th Amendment the right to a speedy trial knowing that delaying justice meant denying it; the 6th Amendment 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.
Of course, it is nowhere near that straightforward in execution and, some 200 years later, speedy trial is almost an entirely different beast, mutated with strands of wild DNA into an exotic and seemingly crippled rule.
In addition to a right to speedy trial derived from the U.S. Constitution (a federal "due process" speedy trial right), Florida has a specific Speedy Trial Rule. Rule 3.191, Fla.R.Crim.P., establishes that a felony trial must begin in 175 days and a misdemeanor in 90 days. An accused party who is prepared can demand a speedy trial within 60 days. Sounds simple right? Well, the devil is in the details, or here in the "recapture" period.
The Speedy Trial Rule has been diluted; I suspect because the Government wants to make sure that no one escapes because of a trick of timing. So, the Rule has been amended over and over again and interpreted by case law to become an almost toothless vestige of what it might have once been. The recapture period gives the Government numerous chances to bring the accused to trial even after the stated time periods have run, as well as circumstances where the time frame can be extended. For example, you demand a speedy trial on day one. When the initial 50 days run, you have to let the State know AGAIN within 5 days, and they get 10 more days to respond. So 60 is actually 65, although if that last day falls on a weekend or holiday... you get the picture.
My dear friend and mentor (who we shall call EAL) tells me of the glory days when it didn't suck being a defense lawyer and you had some rules and remedies that were not diluted or neutered to the point of impotence. So, yeah, it could be (and was) better. But even a dull stick is better than nothing against a saber tooth tiger (if only a handy toothpick).
You would not want to read about all the twists and turns of speedy trial, so trust me when I say there is a lot of case law a lawyer needs to know to navigate the Rule. But what you need to know about is pretty straight forward and breaks into two major topics—(a) Waiving Speedy Trial and (b) Demanding Speedy Trial.
Many lawyers waive speedy trial as a matter of course—I have done it. Sometimes you think you have to do it, but I challenge you to re-examine that notion. Can you not be ready on just about any misdemeanor in a week? Setting aside financial concerns (and let us be honest… with bi-weekly payment plans, do you think any lawyer wants to leave 75% of their fee unpaid, head into tons of hours of work, and then worry they will get stiffed?), your lawyer should be able and willing to outwork the State. Their case load should be a fraction of the State's. I promise your lawyer has bragged they could try any misdemeanor with just looking at the file in the elevator! And misdemeanors are often prosecuted by new lawyers who should have single digit trials.
At Delgado & Romanik, PLLC, some of our lawyers have over 100 jury trials. That means we are more experienced and practiced. I am also willing to work 70 hours a week to win. I am willing to work late nights, pound energy drinks, and upset my wife to win! You should be, too. Seriously, this is the guerrilla warfare model—strike quickly at the larger opponent who lacks your mobility and your dedication to the cause!
Even if the case is a felony, if you are organized and hardworking, you can get your depositions scheduled and be ready for trial by the first pre-trial conference if you want. I assure you the State is not going to be really ready. Of course, there are complex cases where this is not feasible, there are cases where time will benefit you, and there are cases where your client is in jail and wants to go home as quickly as possible or where you have a temporarily stable situation that could break bad at any movement. You will know the right choice. But it is a choice you can make. Do not just continue for the sake of more time unless you really need the time.
As a client, ask your lawyer why they might want to waive speedy trial and discuss the pros and cons. I suggest paying your fee in full upfront so there is no temptation to continue the case to get paid. Talk about the fee for going to trial—many firms, mine included, generally charge extra for trial. If we know it is going to be a speedy trial case, we need to work that into the financial discussion up front. I would say the main reason lawyers continue cases is for financial reasons or because they hope the case will resolve "on its own." I organize my cases as they come in—trial or not. The trial cases are ones I really prefer not to waive speedy trial on, assuming the client supports the idea.
So far we have been talking about waiving speedy trial or what I call "natural speedy trial.” Now I want to talk about painting a bullseyes on your chest by demanding a speedy trial. At any time after an information (or other charging document) has been filed, you can demand a speedy trial. Never before has such a short simple motion caused so much chaos—I envision it like tossing a grenade over a hill. You hear the scurrying, the shrieking, and yeah, sometimes it comes flying back over the ridge at you!
I demand speedy trials when I have a client who is innocent or courageous, or (preferably) both. It is a mutual decision to declare total war. Again, setting aside the financial issues, the demand means you are ready—it may mean no more motions, no more depositions, etc. (that is a topic for another day)—and you need to be fine with that and have made all your preparations (or be able to).
I use the demand most often in DUI cases with blood or urine tests; I am pressing the State to get the test results in time and to be able to get their witnesses ready in time. Just this past week, we had two DUI cases dropped because the State could not get the urine test results back in time. And just because they can sometimes get the results back, that does not mean they will not have other issues getting them into evidence. It drains away any room for error.
I also use the demand when the State may have witness problems or when my client needs a rapid result, usually because they are in jail. Another "benefit" of demanding a speedy trial is that you will be in front of the judge quickly—usually within five days—and you will often be given some priority when it comes to setting trials. I also find that I get prosecutors to call me quickly when I do this, although not always with joy and love in their hearts. Still, it does force the case to a head and can get the case resolved quickly if there is a reasonable offer both sides can agree to.
The right to a speedy trial is a complicated rule with a lot of cases interpreting when and how it applies. A skilled lawyer can easily become confused and lost in some of the twists and turns of the rule, particularly when it comes to what constitutes an arrest for speedy trial purposes, etc. The purpose of this article is not to teach you the nuances of the rule, but to present the rule to you as potentially effective tool to gain (or regain) control over your case and put tremendous pressure on the State.
If you or a loved one has a pending criminal prosecution, we would like to meet with you and explain how our years of courtroom experience can lead to the best result possible for you. We charge no consultation fee and can meet you in beautiful downtown DeLand or at our main location—beachside in Daytona Beach.