CBA Record March/April 2022


Navigating the Speedy Trial Process By JarradWoodson

A speedy trial is one of two founda- tional rights for defendants (a jury trial is the other). Th e decision to demand a speedy trial involves many fac- tors, and calculating the term on a demand can get messy. Th e pandemic made the entire process even more complex. So, what now? How can a criminal defendant demand a speedy trial, especially during the pandemic, and when should they do so? Th is article follows up the YLS Crimi- nal Law Committee’s 2022 live seminar: Speedy Trials and the Covid Era (available on demand at In focusing on the criminal defense perspec- tive, it describes how the Illinois response to Covid-19 delayed ongoing trials and provides some practical tips for navigating the current state of speedy trials. When to Demand a Speedy Trial When starting with a new case, there is nothing wrong with demanding a speedy

trial at the bond court level or before the client is arraigned. Th e term by which trial must be completed can start at pre- arraignment, and the client cannot be tried without arraignment. Th us, no harm exists by making a demand at this stage. When does demanding a speedy trial carry more weight in the case? That depends. It is important to compare the potential discovery with what has been gathered so far. If there is substantial out- standing discovery, demanding a speedy trial may be risky. If the facts of the case are complex, then consider waiting to make the demand. Remember: demanding a trial tells the State and the court that the case is ready for trial right here, right now. Another question to consider is: do any other motions need to be fi led? Complex motions may require substantial time because, among other things, they may require extensive briefing and hearing. Generally, the more complex a motion to

be heard, the less likely a demand will be e ff ective. People v Donalson , 356 N.E.2d 776, 778 (Ill. 1976) (holding that the defendant should be charged for delay after fi ling a motion to suppress evidence and that the State needed time to prepare a response given its burden at the hearing). Simple motions that do not require exten- sive brie fi ng can be heard without risking a chargeable delay. What Happens After the Demand Under Illinois law, once a defendant has demanded a speedy trial, the State is required to bring a trial within 120 or 160 days of the demand. Th e length of term is fi rst determined by whether the client is in custody. If so, then the length of the term is 120 days. Th e day the demand is made is not counted towards the 120 or 160-day term. People v. Grant , 369 N.E.2d 850 (Ill. App. 3d 1977). Once the demand is made, only the State can select the follow-

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