Criminal defendants have numerous rights under the state and federal constitutions, including the right to a speedy trial. If their constitutional rights are violated, it may provide grounds for vacating their convictions. Not all trial delays are deemed constitutional violations, however, as demonstrated in a recent Washington opinion issued in a matter in which the defendant appealed his conviction for assault. If you are accused of an assault offense, it is advisable to speak to a Tacoma assault defense lawyer about your rights.
The Facts of the Case
It is alleged that the defendant was charged with second degree assault in January 2020, following an incident that occurred earlier in the month. He was arraigned two weeks later, and his trial was scheduled for May 2020. His trial was continued nine times, and he was not actually tried for over a year, however. The trial delays were attributed, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was found guilty of a lesser charge, after which he appealed, arguing that the state violated his right to a speedy trial.
The Right to a Speedy Trial
The United States and Washington Constitutions both protect criminal defendants’ right to a speedy trial. The court clarified that the analysis of speedy trial rights is substantially the same under both Constitutions. Specifically, the right to a speedy trial arises when a defendant is charged with a crime or arrested, whichever occurs first. Further, if their right to a speedy trial is violated, they are entitled to the dismissal of the charges against them with prejudice.
To determine whether a defendant’s right to a speedy trial has been violated, the courts perform a balancing test that involves four inquiries: whether the length of the delay was unusually long, whether the defendant asserted their right to a speedy trial, whether the defendant or the government was at fault for the delay, and whether the defendant suffered prejudice due to the delay.
The court explained that in order to trigger a speedy trial analysis, a defendant must allege that the duration between the accusation and trial has surpassed the line dividing ordinary delays from those that are presumptively prejudicial. In other words, a defendant cannot prove that they have been denied the right to a speedy trial if the government has prosecuted their case with typical promptness. The court noted, though, that a finding that a delay is presumptively prejudicial does not demonstrate a speedy trial violation; instead, it triggers the right to the four-factor analysis.
In the subject case, the court ultimately found that the defendant failed to show he suffered actual prejudice due to the delays or that the delays were the result of the state’s negligence. Thus, the court denied his appeal.
Talk to an Experienced Tacoma Criminal Defense Lawyer
People accused of assault and other crimes have numerous rights, and if their rights are not upheld, they have options for seeking justice. If you are faced with assault charges, you should contact an attorney to discuss your rights as soon as possible. The experienced Washington criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White possess the knowledge and resources needed to help you seek a favorable outcome, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 253-363-8662 to set up a conference.