I decided to write this blog about Speedy Trial in Fort Walton Beach cases because as a criminal defense attorney, I get asked about it a lot. I’ll discuss the Speedy Trial rule and how it works. When we meet to talk about your case, I’ll explain whether I think Speedy Trial is a good idea in your case or not.
Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191 is the applicable law on this topic. I’ll discuss Rule 3.191 and also offer some information about how the rule is applied in Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County courts. The rule divides Speedy Trial into two types: Speedy Trial Without Demand and Speedy Trial Upon Demand.
(1) Speedy Trial Without Demand
Rule 3.191(a) states: “Every person charged with a crime shall be brought to trial within 90 days of arrest for a misdemeanor, or within 175 days of arrest for a felony. The time periods established shall commence when the person is taken into custody.”
What Does Custody Mean?
As defined by Rule 3.191(d), “a person is taken into custody when the person is arrested or when the person is served with a notice to appear in lieu of physical arrest.”
What If We Need A Continuance To Get Prepared?
This is very common. The prosecutors in Fort Walton Beach are notoriously slow in sending discovery on their cases, so a lot of times, when the court date comes around, we are still waiting for discovery. Especially in situations where the case might go to trial, I need sufficient time to review discovery, file motions, take depositions, and prepare. If I decide that a continuance is needed, I will waive Speedy Trial, which stops the clock unless we file what is called a Demand For Speedy Trial which is discussed next.
(2) Speedy Trial Upon Demand
Rule 3.191(b) states in part: “Every person charged with a crime by indictment or information shall have the right to demand a trial within 60 days by filing with the court a Demand For Speedy Trial and serving a copy on the prosecuting authority.”
What Happens After Filing a Demand For Speedy Trial?
The Judges in Fort Walton Beach do not like it when defense attorneys file this Demand. It puts pressure on them and on the prosecutor which is what makes it a useful option in some cases.
Rule 3.191(b)(1-4) lists the four things that happen once a Demand is filed:
- No later than 5 days from the filing of a demand for speedy trial the court shall hold a calendar call for the express purpose of announcing in open court receipt of the demand and of setting the case for trial.
- At the calendar call the court shall set the case for trial to commence at a date no less than 5 days nor more than 45 days from the date of the calendar call.
- The failure of the court to hold a calendar call on a demand shall not interrupt the running of any time periods.
- If the defendant is not brought to trial within 50 days of the filing of the demand, the defendant has the right to the appropriate remedy set forth in 3.191(p).
What Is The Remedy If The Case Isn’t Brought To Trial On Time?
This is why the Judges really don’t like this rule. Rule 3.191(p) states that once the time period has passed, and after the defendant files a Notice of Expiration of Speedy Trial Time, the court must hold a hearing within 5 days, and at that hearing, must order that the trial take place within 10 days, unless some very narrow exceptions apply. If the case is not brought to trial within that 10 day period, the defendant will be discharged forever from the crime.
In other words, the case gets dismissed and can’t ever be refiled.
Do You File A Demand For Speedy Trial A Lot?
No. While the Rule does potentially pressure the State, which we can sometimes exploit to our advantage, it also has implications for the defense. Rule 3.191(g) states in part that the defendant is bound by the demand. It further states that no demand should be filed unless the defendant has a bona fide desire to obtain a trial faster than normal. Also, the Rule states that by filing the demand, the defendant is telling the court that he/she has diligently investigated the case, and is prepared to try the case within 5 days.
This is why I don’t use this tactic as a bluff. Judges know when either side is playing games and if they think I am doing so, they will call my bluff and possibly force us to trial within 5 days. This is rarely to the client’s benefit.
Speedy Trial is something I always monitor in all of my cases. I try to avoid whenever possible waiving our client’s right to a Speedy Trial unless it is absolutely necessary.
I have used Speedy Trial in the past in a few cases to get charges dismissed, so it can be an effective tool when it applies. With every case I defend in Fort Walton Beach, I am always looking for every possible edge I can find to help my clients.
If you have been arrested in Fort Walton Beach, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 and get the help you need.