Purpose of Speedy Trial

Florida’s ‘Speedy Trial’ rules are based on the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Speedy Trial is considered a ‘fundamental liberty’ designed to prevent prolonged and oppressive pretrial incarceration, to minimize the anxiety and burden associated with a public prosecution, and to ensure that the passage of time does impair the accused’s ability to obtain a fair trial.  United States v. Ewell, 323 U.S. 116 (1966).

Speedy Trial Rights in Florida

In Florida, the Sixth Amendment right to a ‘Speedy Trial’ is outlined in Rule 3.191, Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure, which provides:

[E]very person charged with a crime shall be brought to trial within 90 days of arrest if the crime charged is a misdemeanor, or within 175 days of arrest if the crime charged is a felony.

Speedy Trial Times

  • Misdemeanors– 90 days from the time of arrest / custody / notice to appear / citation requiring a response;
  • Misdemeanor with a written ‘Demand for Speedy Trial’– 50 days after filing the demand;
  • Felonies– 175 days from time of arrest / custody / notice to appear / citation requiring a response;
  • Felonies with a written ‘Demand for Speedy Trial’– 50 days after filing the demand;

Failure to Conduct Trial

A failure of the prosecution to bring the accused to trial within these time periods results in the defendant being forever discharged of the crime.

‘Demand for Speedy Trial’

As indicated above, the Speedy Trial times applicable in a Florida criminal case may change where the accused files a “Demand for Speedy Trial” under Rule 3.191(b).  The ‘demand’ operates as a written notice wherein the accused represents to the court and prosecution that he or she is available for trial, has investigated the case, and is prepared to proceed to trial within 5 days.

Once filed, the defendant must be brought to trial within 50 days after the demand, although trial may commence in fewer than 50 days.

A written Demand for Speedy Trial can drastically shorten the 90 and 175 day deadlines applicable in a conventional misdemeanor or felony case.  The filing of a demand, however, carries significant risks in that it virtually eliminates the possibility of additional case investigation, trial preparation, and negotiations with the State.

Commencement of Speedy Trial Times

Rule 3.191(a) provides that the above-described Speedy Trial times commence when a defendant is taken into “custody.”  Rule 3.191(d) defines ‘custody’ to mean:

  1. An arrest occurring “as a result of the conduct of the criminal episode that gave rise to the crime charged;” and
  2. The service upon a defendant of “a notice to appear in lieu of physical arrest.”

The service of a citation to appear for a criminal traffic offense constitutes a taking into “custody” under the speedy trial provisions of Rule 3.191. Rodriguez v. State, 453 So. 2d 175, 176 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984) (citing Singletary v. State, 322 So.2d 551 (Fla. 1975)).

Where a defendant is called by the citation “to respond in any way,” the document will constitute a notice to appear in lieu of physical arrest and satisfy the “custody” requirement of Rule 3.191(d).  Ayres v. State, 898 So. 2d 1154, 1155 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005).

Speedy Trial Violations

The procedures and remedies applicable when the Speedy Trial period has expired will differ according to whether the prosecution has filed formal charges.

Under Rules 3.140 and 3.125, formal charges may include an indictment or information and, where applicable, affidavits, docket entries, and notices to appear.

In criminal traffic prosecutions, a citation may serve as the formal charge.  See Rule 6.165(a), Florida Rules of Traffic Court.

Formal Charges Filed

Where speedy trial periods have expired and the State has filed formal charges, the defendant’s remedy is to file a document known as a “Notice of Expiration of Speedy Trial.”   Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.191(p).

No later than 5 days from the date of the filing of the notice, the trial court must hold a hearing where the court must order that the defendant’s case be brought to trial within 10 days, unless excusable circumstances exist under Rule 3.191(j) (discussed below).

A failure to comply with this 10-day deadline (known as the “recapture” period) will result in a permanent discharge of the crime upon the filing of a Motion for Discharge.

Rule 3.191(j) provides several exceptions to the 10-day “recapture” rule.  The most commonly occurring exceptions include the following:

  • The court has granted a valid extension under Rules 3.191(i) and 3.191(l) for “exceptional circumstances.”  Exceptional circumstances can include:
      • unexpected illness, incapacity, or unforeseeable and unavoidable absence of a witness or other person necessary for trial;
      • a showing by the state that the case is unusual and complex, and that it is unreasonable to expect adequate investigation or preparation within the periods of time established by this rule;
      • showing by the state that evidence is not yet available despite diligent efforts to secure it;
      • a showing by the state of delays grounded on developments that could not have been anticipated and that materially will affect the trial
      • a showing that a delay is necessary to accommodate a co-defendant;
      • a showing by the state that the accused has caused major delay or disruption of preparation of proceedings, as by preventing the attendance of witnesses or otherwise.
  • The failure to hold trial is attributable to the accused, a co-defendant in the same trial, or their counsel;
  • The accused was unavailable for trial under subdivision (k); or
  • The demand for speedy trial is invalid.

If any of these exceptions are deemed by the Court to apply, then an extension of the Speedy Trial period will granted until a subsequent date as set by the court.  Rule 3.191(j).

No Formal Charges Filed

Where the prosecution fails to file formal charges against a defendant within the applicable speedy trial period, the remedy is immediate discharge.

In Florida, the prosecution may not file charges based on the same conduct after the speedy trial period has expired.” State v. Williams, 791 So.2d 1088, 1091 (Fla. 2001) (emphasis added).

In State v. Clifton, 905 So.2d 172 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005), the Fifth District Court of Appeal concluded that:

[T]he state may not circumvent the purpose and intent of the speedy trial rule by: 1) entering a nolle prosequi of the charges and waiting to refile them until after the speedy trial period has expired; 2) voluntarily dismissing the charges before they are formally filed and filing formal charges after the time limit has expired; or 3) taking no action after the defendant is arrested and waiting until after the speedy trial period has expired to file formal charges. In these instances, the state has essentially abandoned the prosecution and the recapture provisions of the rule do not apply, with the result that the defendant must be discharged.”  Clifton, 905 So. 2d at 176 (emphasis added).

In short, the failure to file charges within the Speedy Trial period represents an abandonment of the prosecution. Under Clifton, the State is not entitled to the 10-day recapture period or the Speedy Trial exceptions described above.

Waivers of Speedy Trial

A defendant may waive his or her rights to speedy trial and thereby nullify the protections afforded by Rule 3.191.  A waiver will occur whenever the failure to hold a trial within the applicable time periods is attributable to the defendant or his or her attorney.  Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.191(j)(2).

Examples of Waiver

Some of the common examples conduct amounting to a waiver of speedy trial include the following:

  • requests for extension of time by a defendant or his or her counsel;
  • the signing of a written waiver of speedy trial;
  • failures to appear;
  • delays in the proceedings caused by the accused;
  • a defendant’s unavailablility for trial or hearing;
  • a request for an extension to further investigate the case, or to obtain the presence of witnesses;
  • misconduct by the defendant resulting in delay of the proceedings;
  • affirmatively selecting or agreeing to a trial date beyond the Speedy Trial period.  State v. Swint, 464 So. 2d 242 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985)

Decisions on Waiver

In Florida criminal cases, the decision on whether to voluntarily waive Speedy Trial belongs to the attorney, not the represented defendant.

As long as the waiver is made in good faith and the attorney believes the waiver to be in the best interests of the client, the attorney may properly waive Speedy Trial over the client’s objection.  Boyd v. State, 45 So. 3d 557, 559 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010); Williams v. State, 383 So. 2d 722, 726 (Fla. 1st DCA 1980).

Where a client, contrary to the advice of counsel, insists on not waiving Speedy Trial, and the attorney chooses to honor the client’s wishes, the client waives any claim to ineffective assistance of counsel deriving from the non-waiver decision.  Boyd, 45 So. 3d at 559-60.  In other words, if a client’s case is prejudiced by his or her insistence on not waiving Speedy Trial (i.e. by not allowing the attorney adequate time for investigation and trial preparation), the client cannot claim that the attorney was ineffective for acceding to the client’s request.  Id.

Voluntary Waivers

There are multiple strategic and practical reasons for a defendant or his or her attorney to waive Speedy Trial rights. Some common examples include the following:

  • The need to conduct further investigation;
  • The need for additional trial preparation time;
  • Allowing additional time for negotiation;
  • Allowing additional time for the State to decide to drop or amend charges;
  • Allowing a case to “age” so as to reduce the State’s eagerness to pursue the charge;
  • The need to remove strict time constraints on the case so as to improve the court’s flexibility on scheduling, discovery, and other matters;
  • The need to remove time constraints on the State so as to incentivize non-trial options for case resolution

Contact an Attorney

If you are a defendant involved in a criminal case and are considering the hiring of an attorney to address a ‘Speedy Trial’ issue, contact Hussein & Webber, PL today for a free consultation.