The United States Constitution is an amazing document. It serves a vital purpose in this country, as it spells out Americans’ rights. These rights separate the United States from many other countries around the world – especially Americans’ right to a fair and speedy trial.
Our criminal justice system was created to protect the public and ensure that anyone accused of a crime gets equal, fair treatment under the law. One aspect of that is the guarantee to a fair trial.
- receiving a “speedy” trial
- being judged by an impartial jury of their peers
It’s vital for every American to have at least some understanding of what their rights are and how to take advantage of them. Here is what you need to know about the right to a fair and speedy trial in Texas under the United States Constitution.
The Sixth Amendment
Under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, every person facing criminal charges must be tried in court in a timely manner. This amendment is sometimes called the speedy trial amendment. This Sixth Amendment right is also guaranteed by the Texas State Constitution.
The Sixth Amendment gives those accused of crimes the right to a fast public trial, where they will be judged by an impartial jury of their peers in the district the crime was allegedly committed.
But the Sixth Amendment doesn’t stop there. Anyone accused of a crime must be informed:
- of the nature of the accusation and what caused it
- that they have the right to acquire witnesses in their own favor and for witnesses against them to confront them.
Anyone accused of a crime also has the right to have a lawyer present to help them defend against the accusations.
You may think all of this is great, but what exactly does it mean for a trial to be speedy?
It’s a good question, especially since some things seem as if they can drag out for a long time in the courts. While there are no clear-cut guidelines for what constitutes a speedy trial, an attorney can help ensure your case is moving at an appropriate speed.
The average time that many defense attorneys find a speedy trial takes is about eight months, but that number depends on many factors.
If someone feels their rights have been violated, a judge can look at the situation and rule on it. They can look at how much time has passed since the arrest and how it compares to similar criminal matters. The judge will also examine why a trial has been delayed. That way, if one party is causing the delay, they can be dealt with.
You Can Waive Your Rights
It is possible to waive your right to a speedy trial, but why would you want to?
It seems counterintuitive to waive your right to a speedy trial if you want to get things over with as quickly as possible, but sometimes waiving it can help the outcome. Extra time to prepare a case if it’s complex is one way it can help, as can the strength of witness testimony that can weaken over time.
If you’re not in jail awaiting a trial, delay can work in your favor.