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California High Court Upholds Speedy Trial Rights

Posted on October 29, 2010 in Criminal Defense

250 more criminal cases are on appeal after dismissals for violations of the right to a speedy trial. The Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial. A California defendant in a felony matter is entitled to trial within 60 days. Misdemeanor cases should be brought to trial within 30 days under California rules.

The ruling Monday arose from the dismissal of a California burglary charge in September 2008, and 17 other cases consolidated for review. No cases have been dismissed in the county since July 2009 based upon a shortage of judges.

In 2007 a task force comprised of judges reported that Riverside County had a culture of continuances that caused delays in the justice system. The agreed upon delays in 2007 led to delays of over a year for as many as 25 percent of the inmates in the county. One defendant sat for eight years awaiting trial, according to the 2007 task force.

The Riverside County prosecutor argued to the Supreme Court that every superior court judge should be available to get cases to trial. The prosecutor wanted judges assigned to the civil decision to try criminal cases, including judges that normally hear family law and probate matters.

The Supreme Court disagreed. California law gives precedence to criminal cases, but that precedence "is not of such an absolute and overriding character that the system of having separate departments for civil and criminal matters must be abandoned."

Source: The Desert Sun, "COURT: 18 CRIMINAL CASES DISMISSED," Keith Matheny, 26 Oct 2010

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