Setting a trial date is an important part of criminal proceedings. This issue also brings about an important decision that you and your attorney may wish to consider, which is whether to waive your right to a speedy trial. You see, you have the right to a trial within a certain amount of time (in California, this is generally 30 or 45 days for a misdemeanor and 60 days for a felony), but you may choose to waive this right if you and your attorney believe it will benefit your case.
The following is an overview of how trial dates are set in California and what factors may come into play when a defendant is considering whether to waive his or her right to a speedy trial.
Misdemeanor Trial Dates
According to information on the website of the Judicial Branch of California, a defendant charged with a misdemeanor must be brought to trial within 30 days of his or her arraignment or plea, whichever is later. If the defendant is not in custody at the arraignment, the trial must start within 45 days of his or her arraignment or plea, whichever is later.
A defendant may waive his or her right to a speedy trial in the face of misdemeanor charges. This means that the defendant agrees to have a trial after the normal 30 or 45-day deadline. Even if a defendant waives time, however, the trial must start within 10 days after the trial date is set.
Felony Trial Dates
California Penal Code § 1382 allows for a case to be dismissed if it is not brought to trial within a certain amount of time. According to this section:
The court, unless good cause to the contrary is shown, shall order the action to be dismissed in the following cases:
- When a person has been held to answer for a public offense and an information is not filed against that person within 15 days.
- In a felony case, when a defendant is not brought to trial within 60 days of the defendant's arraignment on an indictment or information…
A defendant may waive his or her right to a speedy trial in the face of misdemeanor charges, in which case the trial may be scheduled after the 60-day deadline.
To Waive or Not to Waive…
Should you waive your right to a speedy trial? This is a question that only you and your attorney can answer, based on the specific circumstances surrounding your case. There are advantages and disadvantages to this strategy, and you should discuss these in detail before you make a decision.
In many instances, your criminal defense lawyer will need the time between your arraignment and trial date to prepare your case. This includes gathering evidence, lining up witnesses, preparing witnesses for examination and cross-examination and in all preparing a strategy that will offer you the best chance at an acquittal. If your lawyer believes that waiving your right to a speedy trial will help your defense by providing additional time to build a compelling case, he or she may recommend this approach.
It is also important to note, however, that if you uphold your right to a speedy trial and the court is unable to meet the deadline, this could be used to seek a dismissal of all charges against you. This approach can be risky but could offer significant rewards by resulting in dismissed charges altogether.
Talk about your case and criminal proceedings with a knowledgeable professional by calling Lessem & Newstat. A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our firm can help guide you in the right direction.