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Washington Court Discusses Right to a Speedy Trial in Weapons Charge Case

Simply because a person is charged with a crime, it does not mean they are no longer protected by the law. Rather, criminal defendants are granted many rights by state and federal law, including the right to a speedy trial. Thus, if a trial is unduly delayed, a defendant may be able to obtain a dismissal of the charges pending against him or her. The grounds for dismissing charges due to a delay in trying a case were recently discussed by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in a case in which the defendant was indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm. If you are charged with a weapons offense, it is important to retain a skillful Tacoma gun crime attorney who will fight to protect your rights.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that in May 2015, the defendant was indicted by a federal grand jury for possession of a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. It took approximately one year for the defendant to be appointed counsel and approximately two years for the defendant to be arraigned. The defendant then moved to dismiss his indictment on the grounds that the delay violated his right to a speedy trial. The court denied the motion. The defendant renewed the motion, and it was again denied. The defendant pled guilty while specifically preserving his right to appeal the court’s denial of his motion to dismiss. He was sentenced to seventy-seven months imprisonment. He then appealed the trial court’s ruling.

Sixth Amendment Right to a Speedy Trial

Under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, all criminal defendants have the right to a public and speedy trial. There is no defined limit as to what is considered an unconstitutional delay. Rather, courts usually assess four factors in determining if a delay is sufficient to violate a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights: the duration of the delay, the reason for the delay, whether the defendant asserted his right to a speedy trial, and whether the defendant suffered prejudice as a result of the delay.

The length of the delay is the threshold factor in determining an allegation that the right to a speedy trial has been violated, but the length tolerable depends on the complexity of the crime. The courts generally deem a delay in excess of one year as prejudicial, however. The courts then assess whether the prosecution or the defendant caused the delay, and will hold delays caused by the government against it. The defendant must also establish that he asserted his right to a speedy trial and demonstrate how the delay was prejudicial to him. If a delay is lengthy and attributable to the government, however, prejudice is not required.

In the subject case, the court found that while the delay was caused by the government, and the defendant asserted his right to a speedy trial, the defendant failed to establish prejudice, and the government had valid reasons for the delay. As such, the court affirmed the dismissal of the defendant’s motion.

Meet with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a weapons crime in Washington, it is in your best interest to meet with a Washington weapons crime attorney to discuss your rights and what defenses you may be able to assert. The experienced criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White have the skills and knowledge to help you set forth compelling arguments in your defense. We can be reached at 253-203-1645 or through the online form to schedule a meeting.

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