I’ve been arrested and charged. How quickly can I get to trial?

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If you face charges in a state that sets limits on the time within which a case must get to trial—over and above the general constitutional right to a speedy trial—you have some control over your trial date. For example, in California, a defendant who is charged with a misdemeanor or an infraction, and who is awaiting trial in jail, has a right to a trial within 30 days of arraignment or entry of plea, whichever is later. (Cal. Penal Code § 1382.) If the defendant isn’t in custody, then trial must take place within 45 days. (Id.) Otherwise, the court must dismiss the case.

In felony cases in states like California, the defendant is entitled a trial within 60 days of arraignment on an indictment or information, unless the prosecution can show “good cause”—“good cause,” however, generally doesn’t include scheduling difficulty due to a busy court calendar. (Id.) Different timelines may come into play if certain kinds of witnesses or victims are involved, like children and elderly or dependent adults.

Of course, whether it’s a good idea to rush to trial depends completely on the circumstances. You should consult a lawyer not only on the law in your state, but also as to whether invoking your speedy trial right is wise. Listen to your lawyer: It’s frequently in your interest to “waive time” in order to properly set up your defense.

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