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Delays Due To Negligence Can Violate Speedy Trial Right


In Doggett v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that an 8½-year delay between the government’s indictment of a defendant and the defendant’s arrest violates the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The court rules that even though the delay was not planned or on purpose, it was so long that the reason did not matter. The court says that although sloppiness, incompetence or other unintentional reasons for delays are not taken as seriously as intentional reasons, they still can cross the line. If the delay is very long, as in this case, then the accused does not need to show that his or her case was harmed (for example, that evidence is lost or witnesses are unreachable). Instead, the court assumes harm has been done unless the prosecution can prove otherwise.