Individuals charged with a crime have a right to a speedy trial. This is a very powerful right for a criminal defendant. You may ask “why?” Because under this right, if the People (the government) violate speedy trial rights of the criminal defendant, charges may get dismissed, even if there is strong evidence against the defendant.
The US Constitution, specifically the Sixth Amendment protects criminal defendants from delayed prosecution: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial. . .” The US Constitution does not set forth a time period in which the People must be ready for trial after commencing a criminal action against a criminal defense, which usually occurs at the arraignment. That is when the clock starts running.
Contrastingly, New York law sets forth a time period in which the People must be ready for trial after commencement of a criminal action. New York Criminal Procedure Law (“CPL”) § 30.30 says that from the time of arraignment of a criminally accused, People must be ready for trial as follows:
180 days for a Felony; (punishable by more than 1 year in prison);
90 days for a Class A Misdemeanor; (punishable by up to 1 year in jail);
60 days for a Class B, Misdemeanor (punishable by up to 90 days in jail); and
30 days for a Violation (punished by up to 15 days in jail).
In New York, rights to a speedy trial among attorneys is commonly referred to as “30.30” rights, named after CPL § 30.30.
Keep in mind that the clock does not always start running immediately after arraignment. Also, there are situations that exclude certain time periods from running against the speedy trial clock. Examples of excludable time is unavailability of a witness to testify due to medical leave, unavailability of the criminal defendant who may be hospitalized or detained by a federal agency, etc. For example, if the defendant consents to the People’s request to adjourn the case to a future date, that period of adjournment is excluded from counting against the speedy trial clock. If the Defendant misses a court date, the speedy trial clock will stop from running. CPL § 30.30(4) lists certain periods that are excludable. In addition to that, there is a plethora of case law defining excludable time periods.
The best way to keep track of speedy trial time is by hiring a competent defense attorney who will keep track of the speedy trial clock in order to protect your Constitutional and statutory rights to a speedy trial.