What Does a Speedy Trial Mean?

Cook County Court Illinois Attorneys

The right to a speedy trial is a fundamental principle in our criminal justice system. According to the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” The amendment guarantees a trial within a set period of time, and it prevents the prosecution from unnecessarily delaying your trial. In addition, the state of Illinois also provides a corresponding right in the Illinois Speedy Trial Act, 725 ILCS 5/103-5.

However, despite these guarantees, a speedy trial does not always happen, and our justice system often falls short of this goal. While there are times when the defendant deliberately may delay a trial, most often it is the prosecution that attempts to make unnecessary delays and therefore prejudices the defendant’s right to a fair and impartial trial. Since the determination of what constitutes “speedy” varies according to the individual circumstances as well as whether state or federal law is being considered, anyone arrested needs top-notch legal assistance to make sure their rights are not violated.

The experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances and requirements. We will work with you to mount the most effective defense possible and make sure your right to a speedy trial is upheld.  We offer a free consultation, so call our offices or contact us online for help today if you have been accused of any criminal charges.

What the Law Says

The Sixth Amendment to the federal constitution does not spell out what it means by a speedy trial. However, in 1972, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in Barker v. Wingo that created a balancing test to determine on a case-by-case basis whether a defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated, by considering the following factors:

  1. The length of the delay
  2. The reason for the delay
  3. Whether the defendant ever asserted the right to a speedy trial.

Illinois state law deals more directly with what a speedy trial is. In criminal cases a defendant taken into custody must be tried within 120 days, and, if released on bond, the defendant must be tried within 160 days after filing a written demand for a trial.

In addition, Illinois has what is known as a “compulsory joinder” rule. If there are multiple charges arising from the same arrest or act, they must be brought to trial in a single prosecution. So, if you are arrested and accused of two crimes, the state cannot wait for the outcome of the trial of the first charge before trying you on the second one. This keeps prosecutors from filing piecemeal litigation that harasses defendants.

Differences in Speedy Trial Periods

In Illinois, the time period for a speedy trial depends upon whether the defendant is in pre-trial custody or is released on bond.

1) In Custody. Defendants unable to post the bail bond amount and who remain in custody while awaiting trial have a shorter speedy trial period of 120 days after being taken into custody. This period begins automatically unless the delay was attributable to the defendant, who cannot agree to delay the trial or consent to the State’s request for a continuance.

The 120-day period does not apply to defendants who are in custody for a violation of parole or mandatory supervised release, must be one continuous period of incarceration, and separate periods of incarceration may not be combined. If a defendant is taken into custody a subsequent time for the same offense, the term will begin again at day zero.

2) Out on bail. If a defendant has posted bail, the State has 160 days to start the trial after the defendant formally demands a speedy trial. Illinois law requires a defendant on bond to make a written demand for trial and to incorporate any prior demands made. If defendants fail to do this, they waive their rights to object to delays in bringing the case to trial. Time spent in pre-trial custody can be counted in calculating the 160 days if a speedy trial demand is made upon being released.

When the Defendant Delays the Trial

Regardless of whether the defendant is in custody or is on pre-trial bond, when a defendant causes a delay or agrees to the continuance, the speedy trial period is “tolled.” Tolling allows for the pausing or delaying of the running of the period of time.  For example, if a defendant files a pre-trial motion, it is considered a delay by the defendant because the prosecution is required to answer the motion before the trial. Pre-trial discussions and negotiations between the prosecution and the defense lawyer sometimes take months and may involve several court appearances. These continuances are usually agreed to by the defendant and also toll the speedy trial period.

Defendants can also waive the right to a speedy trial by actions such as not appearing on time to scheduled court dates. Failure to comply with requirements results in the waiving of previous speedy trial demands and having the speedy trial period reset to Day 0.

Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation.

If you have been arrested, you need to have a criminal defense lawyer that understands both the state and federal protections for a speedy trial. Your attorney should communicate with you about your case, explain the reasons for a continuance or any pre-trial motions, and ensure your speedy trial rights are protected and enforced.

The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. will examine the facts of your case, communicate with you about any delays, and explain the reasons.  We work with our clients throughout the criminal process to come up with an effective defense strategy and determine the best time to take a case to trial. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties, rights, and your ability to find employment.

We are aggressive litigators and represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.

Delaying can only make your situation worse, so call or contact us online today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Attorney Marc Wolfe

Marc Wolfe has been representing clients in criminal matters in Chicago and the entire State of Illinois for over 30 years. Mr. Wolfe has tried over 300 cases to verdict and represents clients facing investigation or prosecution for a broad range of state and federal criminal offenses, including murder, embezzlement, sexual abuse, drugs, marijuana and white collar crimes. [ Attorney Bio ]