Should I Ask for a Speedy Trial?

Many defendants want to enforce their right to a speedy trial. But lawyers frequently advise their clients to agree to move slower. Why?

The Sixth Amendment and various state laws guarantee a defendant’s right to a speedy trial. Many defendants, particularly those who are waiting in jail, want to enforce this right. But lawyers frequently advise their clients to “waive time”—that is, to agree to the proceedings moving slower than state law provides. (Read our article to understand the factors that affect how long a criminal case takes.)

Whether it’s a good idea to waive time depends entirely on the circumstances of the case. It might be possible that the defense can force the prosecution to trial before the latter is ready—but that can be a risky strategy. Usually, it makes sense to take whatever time is necessary to fully prepare a defense. But defendants should generally rely on their lawyers when making the decision of whether to waive time. The lawyer should have weighed the pros and cons and be able to explain them. The worst mistake defendants can make is rushing to trial out of impatience at being behind bars, only to ensure that they remain there even longer.

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