The Constitutional Right to a ‘Speedy Trial’ and What That Right Means for You in Maryland

The Sixth Amendment gives each person accused of a crime the right to receive a “speedy trial.” This very general right means some very specific things here in Maryland. The prosecution and the courts have some strict deadlines they are required to meet or else you can use that delay as the basis to get the charges against you thrown out. Whether you need to pursue a speedy trial motion or engage in other procedural maneuvers to protect your rights, the requirements for doing so may be intricate, detailed, and exacting, which is why you should rely on the skills and knowledge of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

Statutory law in Maryland says that, absent a good reason, your criminal case has to be brought to trial within 180 days. The starting point of that 180-day time period is the earlier of the first time you are brought before the judge or the first time your attorney appears in court to state his/her representation of you in the case.

Sometimes, the procedural tactics of the prosecution can impact that speedy trial deadline, as one recent case illustrated. The accused, S.W., was arrested and charged with various drug and firearm offenses. The grand jury indictment, in that case, occurred on Sept. 18, 2018. After the state later discovered fentanyl in the drugs, the prosecutors dismissed all the charges in the first indictment. The grand jury returned a second indictment on Jan. 22, 2019, that added four new counts covering the fentanyl.

On June 4, 2019, S.W. was convicted. One of the arguments he made on appeal was that the prosecution of his charges violated the 180-day rule. The basis for that argument was that he was originally indicted in September 2018 and not brought to trial until June 2019, a period of time well in excess of 180 days.

If the state is circumventing the rule through its tactics, then that’s a violation

Although S.W. was unsuccessful in his argument, there are ways where, with timing like this, your outcome might be a more positive one, winning a speedy trial motion and getting your charges dismissed. If you can prove that the reason the state entered a nol pros on the first indictment and then re-filed a new, second indictment was to “beat” the 180-day deadline, or if you can show that the “necessary effect” of the nol pros was a circumvention of the 180-day rule, then that might be enough to trigger a ruling that your prosecution violated the rule.

For example, if the prosecution enters a nol pros in your case on the 180th day — with no trial date yet assigned and where you weren’t anywhere near the courthouse — that nol pros would have the “necessary effect” of circumventing the rule and therefore be a violation.

Alternately, take an actual case where the trial judge stated that there would be no postponements of the trial and, on the day of trial (and four days before the expiration of the 180-day period,) the prosecution entered a nol pros. That kind of tactic, when it was impossible for the state to re-file and try the charged crimes within four days, was an example where the prosecution acted with the intent to circumvent the rule and gain a strategic advantage, making it a speedy trial violation.

S.W. didn’t have those things, but the unique facts of your case may give you a stronger potential to succeed on a 180-day challenge. Success, though, often requires extremely detailed knowledge of the law, the court rules, and the technical requirements of making a winning speedy trial motion. To ensure your rights, including your right to a speedy trial, are protected to the maximum extent, count on the knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC to provide you with the experienced and diligent representation you need. To get us started working for you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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