Thursday, October 17, 2013

Be Careful What You Ask For

All criminal defendants have the right to a speedy trial, guaranteed by the United States Constitution.  This means that if a Defendant makes that demand, his trial must be held within 60 days (with some exceptions).  I had one defendant who gave this phrase an entirely different meaning.

I was presiding at the call of the jury calendar.  There were perhaps 15 criminal cases set on for jury trial this particular day.  One case I called was a man representing himself on a charge of Driving After Revocation (DAR).  As he came to the attorney’s table, he took a small American flag and desk flag base out of his bag and set it on the table.  He then proceeded to explain to me that he was not guilty of DAR, that he was traveling, not driving, and that traveling is a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution. 

I told the gentleman that there was one other case, a fellow who was in jail, that would be the only trial to go ahead of his, and I wouldn’t know if that case had resolved until after lunch.  Why didn’t he just have lunch, come back at 1:00 and we’d see if we could get his trial in that day.  The Defendant said, “I want to demand my right to a speedy trial.”  He would come back at 1:00 and I’d try to accommodate. 

At the break, I found that he had been in court on a similar charge just a few weeks before.  The judge then worked out a plea arrangement and, before the Defendant left his courtroom, told him, “I’m not going to ask how you got to court today, but I want you to know that there are some very suspicious people who work here.  I STRONGLY admonish you:  Do NOT drive away from the courthouse.”  Well, of course he did, which was the case I was trying that day.

After lunch, the other case settled and at about 1:45, we started picking a jury for this DAR trial.  By 4:15, the defendant was on his way to jail to begin serving a 30-day sentence, having been tried before and convicted by a jury of his peers.

This Defendant had demanded a speedy trial.  He was able to get just what he asked for!

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Next week:  Restitution