MOWK Blog - Trial Rights

Speedy Trial Rights for Defendants When New York Criminal Courts Close

In consideration of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, government agencies all over the United States have taken drastic measures to avoid gatherings and encourage social distancing to prevent the further spread of the virus. In response to the evolving crisis, New York has dictated all non-essential state court functions be postponed until further notice, which means courts have resorted to video to remotely preside over arraignments and suspended prosecution of many criminal cases where trials are being delayed. For criminal defendants it raises Constitutional questions about potential violations of their rights.

Speedy Trials

The sixth amendment of the US Constitution grants individuals the right to a speed trial by the jury of their peers. New York enacted speedy trial laws permitting different time frames by which different criminal case types must be ready for trial. Currently:

  • Felonies must be ready for trial within 6 months
  • Class A misdemeanors must be ready within 90 days
  • Class B misdemeanors must be ready within 60 days
  • Violations must be prepared within 30 days

Violations of these speedy trial laws can result in dismissal of criminal cases.

Exceptions to Speedy Trial Rights

Not all cases fall under these guidelines. Criminal defendants consenting to adjourn a case to a future date will extend the time limit, as the time of adjournment doesn’t count when calculating this requirement. However, sometimes courts will still dismiss a criminal case for violating the constitutional right to speedy trial defendants possess in these cases.

Considerations During Court Closures

If a defendant agrees to adjourn their case until a later date, it can assuage some concerns about whether their right to speedy trial has been violated. However, the question remains the extent to which a court closure and criminal case delay – the length of which is not yet certain – sufficiently violates their rights and merits a dismissal.

Law enforcement and some New York district attorneys have searched for alternate solutions which might avoid constitutional rights violations and address coronavirus concerns by saying some arrests and some prosecutions for low-level nonviolent offenses like shoplifting would not go forward. However, for defendants in custody awaiting trial or who have been arraigned and are out on bail, the future is not so clear.

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being arrested and charged with a crime is disconcerting for anyone, but the potential for exposure to coronavirus in cramped jails and suspension of court hearings leaving defendants in limbo and with their constitutional rights violated is even more unsettling. To protect your rights, it’s critical to work with someone who has your best interests at heart who understands how to fight for your rights. The criminal defense attorneys at MOWK Law understand how stressful your situation is and will work to bring about a speedy resolution for you in these uncertain times. Contact the experienced team today to have your questions answered and get started.