The Right to a ‘Speedy Trial’ and the Role it Plays in Your Maryland Criminal Case

In your Maryland criminal trial, there may be multiple different options and tools available to you under the law to enhance your defense. Knowing what all of these are, and how to use them, is one area where the assistance of skilled Maryland criminal defense counsel can be invaluable. In a recent case involving a double-rape charge, the defendant got his conviction overturned because he advanced both state and federal speedy trial arguments, and, while the delay in his case didn’t violate the Sixth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, the Court of Special Appeals determined that it did violate the state law deadline for speedy trials.

The case involved a man accused of raping two teens in January 1982. The state indicted the man on Feb. 19, 1982. The defendant and his lawyer made their first appearance in court on April 19, 1982. The defendant made a proper motion for a speedy trial in May. The rules for a speedy trial require that the state try a defendant within 180 days of the defendant appearing in court or a lawyer representing the defendant making an entry of appearance on behalf of that defendant. In this case, both things happened on April 19, so the state’s deadline was October 15.

The defendant had entered an insanity defense and requested a psychiatric evaluation. Delays in the state hospital’s completing the psychological evaluation of the defendant pushed the case well beyond the October deadline. In fact, the defendant’s psychological exam didn’t even occur until Dec. 9. The state eventually entered a nol prosequi, which means that the state was abandoning the case.

An arrest warrant in the case was never closed, however. Thirty-two years later, in Sept. 2014, the state indicted the man on the 1982 rape charges. In 2015, a trial court found the man guilty of two counts of rape and two counts of sexual assault, among other charges. Despite the defendant’s multiple motions and arguments raising the speedy trial issue, the judge went forward, sentencing the man to life in prison with all but 25 years suspended.

The defendant appealed, and he won. There are multiple ways to attack a speedy trial issue in Maryland. One way is to assert a federal constitutional claim, arguing that the trial was not sufficiently speedy to satisfy the Sixth Amendment. Another is to assert a state law argument, arguing that the trial was not sufficiently speedy to satisfy the rule created by the Court of Appeals in Hicks v. State. That latter rule, which was later codified in the criminal procedure statutes and the Maryland court rules, demands that “a criminal defendant be brought to trial within 180 days after the earlier of the appearance of counsel, or the first appearance of the defendant before the circuit court, unless good cause is shown.” This was the rule that created the October 15, 1982 deadline in this defendant’s case.

The defendant argued that both a Sixth Amendment and a Hicks violation had occurred. While finding nothing that violated the Federal Constitution, the appeals court agreed with the defendant that there was a speedy trial violation under the Hicks rule. The court, in reaching that ruling, made an important determination, rejecting the trial court’s conclusion that, when the defendant requested a psychological evaluation, that request implicitly amounted to a waiver of the Hicks deadline. The law requires that, in order to establish a waiver of the Hicks deadline, the defense must affirmatively state that it is waiving all arguments related to that rule. “A request for a psychological evaluation is not an affirmative consent for postponement,” the court clearly stated.

In defending yourself in a criminal matter, there are many options you may have available to you. Skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has been working on behalf of the accused in Maryland for many years and knows how to make sure that your rights, both federal and state, are fully protected. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

Maryland Court Orders a New Trial in Criminal Case Due to Violation of Batson Ruling, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 8, 2016

Maryland Court Reviews Allegations of an “Illegal Sentence” in Criminal Case, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, Jan. 22, 2016

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