Do I have a right to a speedy trial in Washington State?

So what is the right to a speedy trial? The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy . . . trial.” The Clause is important because it protects the defendant from delay between the time when they are charged and the beginning of trial. But do you have a right to a speedy trial? Did you waive it? How can you know? And what happens if you are in prison and have other charges pending?

I propose this hypothetical, you are pulled over for DUI in Seattle, you are then released and told to show up for your next court date, which is two months out. The next day, you are arrested for theft in another county. You have a long record and the judge throws the book at you. You decide to plea on the theft charge and are sentenced to 1 year in prison. So what happens to your speedy trial right on your DUI charge?

When confronting speedy trial issues, always cite the Sixth Amendment, as well as the court rule. A person has the right to a speedy trial under both the local Washington state court rules and the Federal Constitution. Should your case be taken up on appeal, the case is stronger for you if you have preserved the constitutional issue at trial.

Washington courts have long held that the accused has no obligation to bring himself to trial. State v. Petersen, 94 Wn.2d 690, 694, 619 P.2d 697 (1980), citing Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.s. 514, 33 L.Ed.2d 101, 92 S.Ct. 2182 (1972). Washington Court rule, CrRLJ 3.3(b)(2) states that a defendant must be brought to trial within 60 days of arraignment id he is detained in jail and within 90 days if he is not. “Detained in jail” means a person is in custody on the current charge. The purpose of the time for trial rule is to provide a prompt trial for the defendant once prosecution is initiated. A charge not brought to trial within the time limit determined under the rule will usually be dismissed with prejudice.

So what happens to your speedy trial right if you’re in prison?

Generally, CrRLJ 3.3 excludes the time when a defendant is held in prison outside the county. But, there is a mechanism to transport inmates under RCW 72.68.020 to local jails and defendants can request speedy disposition of their charges under RCW 9.98.010. RCW 9.98.010 provides that a prisoner may make a request to be brought to court, starting a speedy trial period of 120 days from the date the court and prosecutor receive notice. The notice for request for speedy disposition must be given by the inmate to the superintendent, who shall forward it promptly together with a certificate by the superintendent that states the terms of commitment, time served, time remaining, good time earned and parole eligibility. The documents should be sent by certified mail to the prosecutor and the court by certified mail, return receipt requested.

This blog is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute that for the opinion of an attorney. Every case is unique and you should consult a attorney before taking any action. If you have been arrested for DUI or are facing other similar charges, contact Blair & Kim, PLLC today to see how a criminal defense attorney might be able to help you.

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