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Continuance or Speedy Trial: You Can't Have it Both Ways

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

After reading appellate decisions all day, we appreciate a novel dismissal theory. The courts, however, don't always share that appreciation.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals clarified on Thursday that a defendant won't prevail in his Speedy Trial Act appeal when the defendant's own motions delay his trial.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Homer Richardson promoted fraudulent trust products in connection with his employment at the Aegis Company. He also interfered with Internal Revenue audits, aided in the filing of a false individual income tax return, and signed his own false tax returns. Richardson, his current co-defendant, Robert Welti, and four others were indicted in 2005 for various violations of tax law.

Two of Richardson’s co-defendants in that case pled guilty, but the district court dismissed the indictment without prejudice due to a violation of the Speedy Trial Act. Richardson and Welti were indicted again in 2008.

Later that year, Richardson entered a plea of not guilty. During the course of preparing for trial, Richardson filed numerous motions, and the case was continued six times. In 2010, Richardson filed a motion to dismiss due to a speedy trial violation; the motion was denied. The same day, the district court accepted Richardson’s conditional guilty plea, in which he preserved the right to appeal the court’s disposition as to his Speedy Trial Act claim.

Criminal defendants have a right to a speedy and public trial. The Speedy Trial Act requires that a criminal defendant’s trial commence within 70 days after he is charged or makes an initial appearance, whichever is later, and entitles the defendant to dismissal of the charges if that deadline is not met. Because criminal cases vary widely — and there are valid reasons for delay in some cases — the Act excludes delays due to certain, enumerated events from the 70-day period.

Richardson claims that the court failed to sufficiently justify its decision to exclude days stemming from six separate continuances from the speedy-trial clock. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the continuances. The appellate court also noted that Richardson had not argued that he was prejudiced by the various continuances, the majority of which he requested.

Before commencing legal whining about your client’s delayed trial, consider whether your client’s motions are causing the delay. If your client requested the continuances that resulted in his delay, an appellate court is unlikely to grant him relief under the Speedy Trial Act.

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