The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a speedy and public trial. In the military, the Sixth Amendment speedy trial protections are triggered upon preferral of charges or the imposition of pretrial restraint (e.g. confinement). While an accused will often allow pretrial delay in order to fully prepare for trial, the right to a speedy trial is as foundational as any other Sixth Amendment right.
MJA has defended service members facing investigation, court-martial, and discipline for the most serious offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). If you are facing court-martial, you need an experienced law firm that will fight for you. Contact one of our military defense lawyers today for a free consultation.
The right to a speedy trial goes back to the very beginning of English law and even before. The first formal codification of the right appears to have been in the Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215, where it was written: “We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either justice or right.”
Hundreds of years later, this concept was articulated more simply by Sir William Gladstone who declared that “justice delayed is justice denied.” The right to a speedy trial recognizes the profound injustice and needless suffering—emotional, financial, mental, reputational, etc—that can occur to those involved in the criminal justice system when a legal matter is unnecessarily delayed and not swiftly resolved.
Due to these concerns, the Framers of the Constitution enshrined the right to a speedy trial in the Bill of Rights. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a speedy and public trial. In the military, the Sixth Amendment speedy trial protections are triggered upon preferral of charges or the imposition of pretrial restraint (e.g. confinement).
In addition to the Sixth Amendment, the UCMJ and Rules for Court Martial (R.C.M.) also grant an accused the right to a speedy trial. Under Article 10, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. § 810 (2012), once a service member is placed in pretrial confinement the Government is required to exercise “reasonable diligence” in bringing the accused to trial. United States v.
Further, R.C.M. 707(a) provides that “[t]he accused shall be brought to trial within 120 days” of the imposition of restraint under R.C.M. 304(a)(2)-(4). For purposes of R.C.M. 707, an “accused is brought to trial . . . at the time of arraignment.” R.C.M. 707(b)(1). The speedy trial clock under R.C.M. 707 is reset if the accused is released from pretrial restraint for a “significant period” and starts again when charges are re-preferred, when pretrial restraint is reimposed, or the date the service member enters active duty
Factors to Determine a Speedy Trial Violation
Military appellate courts review four factors to determine if there is a Sixth Amendment speedy trial violation: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reasons for the delay; (3) the accused’s demand for a speedy trial; and (4) the prejudice to the accused).
The length of the delay. A delay must be “facially unreasonable” to trigger a full due process analysis. The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (C.A.A.F). has found that a pretrial confinement period of 117 days triggered the full analysis but that periods as long as 350 days pretrial confinement did not rise to the level of a Sixth Amendment violation.
The reasons for the delay. Whether a delay is unreasonable is determined not just on the length of the delay but perhaps even more so on the reason for the delay. The CAAF has found that a “prosecution strategy” which requires coordinating the testimony of obtaining immunity for multiple co-conspirators can be a justification for even a lengthy delay.
The accused’s demand for a speedy trial. Service members pending court-martial often have strategic reasons to not demand a speedy trial. Those who do demand speedy trial will meet this factor on appellate review.
The prejudice to the accused. A service member who is denied a speedy trial either pretrial or on appeal can suffer many forms of prejudice including an oppressive incarceration, increased anxiety and concerns, and limitation of potential defenses if a case is reversed on appeal. Courts consider the latter injury to be the most serious.
A service member who can prove a speedy trial violation can be provided relief on appeal, including the possibility of dismissal with prejudice in the most egregious of cases.
Contact MJA Today
If you are under investigation or facing court-martial, it is of the utmost importance that you are represented by an experienced military attorney.
MJA has defended service members facing investigation, court-martial, and discipline for the most serious offenses under the UCMJ and stands ready to fight for you. Call us today at (843) 473-3665 for a free consultation.