It must seem to take forever for your case to get to court. You’ve posted bond, hired the best lawyer you could find, and now you find yourself waiting and waiting for your day in court. Why? Isn’t there something your lawyer can do?
Yes, there is. Actually, yes, there are.
Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191, including all sixteen subsections, makes up Florida’s Speedy Trial Rules. Let’s go through them.
First of all, everyone accused of a crime in Florida is entitled to have his or her trial begin within a specified period of time following the arrest.
Rule 3.191(a) provides that, subject to a few exceptions,
“every person charged with a crime shall be brought to trial within 90 days of arrest if the crime charged is a misdemeanor, or within 175 days if the crime charged is a felony”
All one needs to enjoy the benefit of this Rule is to refrain from causing a delay, and remain available for trial whenever it is scheduled.
This Rule is cleverly entitled “Speedy Trial Without Demand.” Of course, that is because the very next subsection is entitled “Speedy Trial Upon Demand.”
Under Rule 3.191(b), subject to a few exceptions,
“every person charged with a crime by Indictment or Information shall have the right to demand a trial within 60 days ….”
This is accomplished by filing with the court, and furnishing a copy to the prosecutor, a document entitled “Demand for Speedy Trial.” This document (sometimes called a “pleading”) declares that the Accused person is available for trial, has diligently investigated the case, and is prepared (or will be prepared) for trial within 5 days.
A demand for speedy trial is binding on the defense as well as the prosecution, and once it has been filed, the defense will not thereafter be able to obtain a postponement if the reason is non-readiness, except as to matters that have arisen after the demand was filed.
Under subsection (c), the trial is considered to have commenced when the trial jury panel for that specific trial is sworn for jury selection proceedings or, for a non-jury (judge only) trial, when the trial proceedings begin before the judge.
Enforcing the Right to a Speedy Trial in the State of Florida
These Rules do not enforce themselves. If the speedy trial period has elapsed, and you want to do anything about it, it will be necessary to file a Notice of Expiration of Speedy Trial Period, under the requirements of Rule 3.191(h).
Rule 3.191(p) controls what happens next.
No later than 5 days after the filing of a notice of expiration of speedy trial period, the trial judge shall conduct a hearing to determine the validity of the notice. In other words, the judge will count days to see whether the speedy trial period has actually expired. If not, the notice is stricken, and nothing else happens. If it has expired, the judge shall order that the trial commence on a specified date not longer than 10 days following the validation hearing.
If the trial does not commence within the 10 days allotted, through no fault of the Accused person, the case is dismissed with prejudice, and the nightmare is over.
As with many legal matters, there are exceptions that sometimes come into play with the Florida speedy trial rules. A professional criminal defense lawyer can tell you whether there are any exceptions in your case, and whether enforcing the speedy trials are a good idea in your specific case.
Practical Application: True Case Results
In a recent case of mine, a Client was accused of driving while impaired and other crimes arising out of a traffic stop. He agreed to provide both a breath and a blood sample. The breath sample was determined to be alcohol-free. For reasons that remain unclear to me, the blood sample analysis was never disclosed by the prosecution.
We were ready for trial, and the State had no evidence of my Client’s consumption of any impairing substance. We counted the days, and filed our Notice of Expiration. On the eve of trial, the prosecutor filed a dismissal.
In this case, we won by getting ready quickly, and being ready by the first time the case was called. This is not always the best strategy, but it was for this Client.
I called to give him the good news, just in time for him to buy a last-minute plane ticket, and travel up north to spend Thanksgiving with his family.
Get the Professional Advice of an Attorney
A professional criminal defense lawyer can tell you whether there are any exceptions in your case, and whether enforcing the speedy trials are a good idea in your specific case.
Keep in mind: defending persons against criminal charges is not a cookie-cutter business. Strategies and tactics must be tailored to individual circumstances by your professional criminal defense lawyer.
If you think hiring a professional is expensive, watch what happens when you hire an amateur.