Texas Speedy Trial Law

If you are going to appeal a conviction on speedy trial ground, you need to know the law in Texas regarding speedy trials. Texas courts employ a balancing-test, which usually ends up balancing away your right to a speedy trial.

What’s the law on speedy trials in Texas? 

“The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant in a criminal prosecution the right to a speedy trial.” Hopper v. State, 520 S.W.3d 915, 923 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017) (citing U.S. CONST. amend. VI); see Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 515 (1972). The right to a speedy trial cannot be quantified in days or months. Barker, 407 U.S. at 523; see State v. Davis, 549 S.W.3d 688, 697 (Tex. App.—Austin 2017, no pet.). Thus, Texas courts “analyze federal constitutional speedy trial claims ‘on an ad hoc basis’ by weighing and then balancing the four Barker v. Wingo factors.” Cantu v. State, 253 S.W.3d 273, 280 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008).

In executing the balancing test, “the conduct of the prosecution and the defendant are
weighed based on four factors: (1) the length of the delay, (2) the reason for the delay, (3) the defendant’s assertion of his right, and (4) any prejudice inflicted by the delay.” Davis, 549 S.W.3d at 697 (citing Hopper, 520 S.W.3d at 923–24). “Under the Barker test, the State bears the burden of justifying the length of the delay, while appellant must meet his burden of proving his assertion of the right to speedy trial and showing prejudice.” Id. No one factor is determinative, and all factors must be considered together along with relevant circumstances on a case-by-case basis. Cantu, 253 S.W.3d at 281.

So what should a defendant do when they want a speedy trial?

First, you need to consult with a defense lawyer. In general, the delay of a trial is good for the defense. It’s something defense lawyers usually welcome. Older cases are usually harder to prosecute for the State. Witnesses forget, move, get arrested, or lose interest. The Defense gets more time to prepare and examine the evidence.

Why do defendants want a speedy trial?

If a defendant is stuck in jail, they might want a speedy trial. Many courts have a routine of wasting a defendant’s time by requiring the defendant to appear every month for a pointless “announcement” docket. The stress of facing an uncertain outcome, and the desire to get the case behind them also motivates defendants to consider a speedy trial (or more likely, to pursue a plea bargain). Defendant’s who believe in their innocence may want their day in court (even though Texas routinely convicts innocent people).


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