What Is a Serna Motion?

A “Serna motion” is a legal motion to dismiss misdemeanor or felony charges because the defendant was denied their constitutional right to a speedy trial, which violates California’s fast and speedy trial law. Serna motions can be filed during the pretrial process and if successful, the criminal charges will be dismissed.

The purpose of a Serna Motion to ensure the defendant isn’t prejudiced defending their case because witnesses’ memories fade or important evidence is lost or destroyed. The delay of the trial must be significant and can’t be the result of any conduct of the defendant to qualify for a Serna motion.

What Are My Rights to a Trial?

Defendants accused of committing misdemeanor crimes have the right to a trial within 45 days of being charged if they are not in police custody. If the defendant is in custody, they have the right to a trial within 30 days. Defendants accused of committing felonies have the right to a trial within 60 days.

You have the right to a speedy trial after one of the following occurs:

  • You are arrested
  • Criminal charges or an indictment have been filed against you
  • You are being held to answer for charges after a preliminary hearing

Legal Justifications for a Speedy Trial

The following reasons can be used to justify a defendant’s right to a speedy trial:

  • Avoiding an unfair lengthy time in jail
  • Minimizing the defendant’s anxiety while they resolve their case
  • Protecting the defendant's ability to defend themselves
  • Ensuring the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial
  • Ensuring proper use of legal resources

What Factors Do Judges Consider for a Serna Motion?

Judges consider three main factors to determine if a defendant’s speedy trial rights were violated:

  • The length of the delay
  • Whether there is justification for the delay
  • If the extent of the delay adversely affected the defendant’s interests

Consult With Our Criminal Defense Team Today

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we are committed to defending the rights of people who have been accused of a wide variety of crimes. If you are facing a felony or misdemeanor, then you need reliable, experienced legal representation in your corner to explain all of your options under the law and fight for your best interests. Reach out to our legal team today to discuss your situation.

To set up your case consultation with our firm, please call (800) 462-7160 or contact us online.