What Is A "Speedy Trial" In Florida Criminal Courts?

There are two "speedy trial" rights in Florida: the constitutional right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment of the United State Constitution, and the procedural right to a speedy trial under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191. This short primer focuses on Florida's procedural rule.

For a felony, a defendant has the right to be brought to trial within 175 days from the date of arrest or custody. The timeframe is shortened to 90 days for misdemeanors or retrials after an appeal or mistrial (whether felony or misdemeanor). This is what I call the "natural expiration" of speedy trial. "Brought to trial" means that the jury is selected for questioning in jury selection (also known as voir dire).

"Arrest" is defined as actual arrest, or when a defendant is given a notice to appear on the street and not actually arrested. The rule also refers to it is as "custody."

A defendant can demand a trial within 60 days, whether or not the 175 or 90 days have elapsed. A defendant has to have a "bona fide" desire for a quicker trial and also represent to the court that he or she has investigated the case and is indeed ready for trial. If that demand is filed, then the 175-day or 90-day provisions cease to apply.

A defendant can waive her or her right to a speedy trial, such as when it takes longer to prepare a defense than just 175 or 90 days. Another instance is when there are competency issues or DNA testing that is taking a while to prepare. In those circumstances, the speedy trial time can be extended.

Even after having waived the right to a speedy trial, a defendant can start the clock again. Under the rule, once a demand for a speedy trial is filed after a waiver, the state has 60 days in which to bring the defendant to trial.

Upon filing a demand for a speedy trial, a hearing on the demand is held within five days. At that time, the judge has to make an inquiry as to whether:

  1. There has been a previous waiver or extension of speedy trial,
  2. The defendant has been available for all previous court hearings
  3. There are any "exceptional circumstances" that call for a further extension

That way, the rule prevents a defendant from filing a demand just to try to force the state to trial when the defendant thinks that the state is not prepared or cannot otherwise be ready for trial (i.e. missing witnesses, complexity of the case, evidence not available, etc).

From the time of the hearing on the demand, the case is set for trial no sooner than five days and no later than 45 days (which should be no later than 50 days from the date the demand was filed).

If after 50 days from the date of the demand, if the defendant has not been brought to trial, the defendant may file a "Notice of Expiration of Speedy Trial." This is true if the original 175 or 90 days have naturally expired without a waiver or extension. When the Notice of Expiration is filed, a hearing is held within five days, and the matter is set for trial within 10 days. This "recapture period" gives the state one last bite at the apple.

If the defendant is not brought to trial within those 10 days, the defendant is entitled to discharge and the case is forever dismissed. Prosecutors are not allowed to dismiss a charge to avoid a speedy trial issue and then refile the same charges later.

Contact Us To Discuss Your Trial And Your Rights

If you have a question about speedy trial in Leon County or a speedy trial case in Tallahassee, call Bodiford Law, P.A., at 850-222-4529 (for existing clients) and 850-583-7381 (for new clients) or send us a message online. We offer free initial consultations.