Speedy Trial: What Does It Mean, And What Are My Rights?

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Florida, you have the right to what is known as a “speedy trial”. Speedy trial is a right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. When a Defendant properly exercises that right, it requires the prosecution to bring the case to trial within a certain time period. If the State is not able to successfully prosecute the case within the speedy trial time frame, the case is dismissed forever.

Florida’s adoption of this concept is spelled out in Rule 3.191 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. The rule states that for a misdemeanor charge, a person has the right to a speedy trial within 90 days from the date of arrest or summons. Once that 90 days has elapsed, you have the right to file a “notice of expiration of speedy trial.” Once that notice is filed, the case must be set for trial no later than 15 days from that date. If the trial does not commence within that time frame, the case must be dismissed, and because of double jeopardy, can never be filed again.

For a felony prosecution, the State must bring the case to trial no later than 175 days from the date of arrest or summons. After 175 days have elapsed, the accused must file the notice of expiration of speedy trial. Just like in a misdemeanor case, the Court must set the case for trial no later than 15 days from the date the notice is filed. The case must be dismissed if the speedy trial time frame is not met.

Speedy trial is a fundamental constitutional right, and is a strategy which may be advisable in certain cases, such as when the Defendant is in custody, or in a case where the prosecution has witness problems. It is also a strategy which can be employed when the Defendant needs the case to be resolved by a certain date.