The 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution includes that in criminal cases a person accused “shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” How the courts go about deciding whether a person charged with a crime got a speedy trial, and whether his or her constitutional rights were violated, was explained by a case reported from Maryland’s intermediate appellate court last week called Anthony Greene v. State of Maryland.
The appellate Court’s opinion indicates that Green was originally arrested by police on July 6, 2015, after they observed his involvement in an apparent drug transaction. He was found in possession of cocaine, hydrocodone, and drug paraphernalia. Original charges were brought a week later, and then the State on two occasions dismissed the charges by entering a nolle prosequi which preserved the prosecution’s right to re-file charges.
Ultimately Greene was indicted on March 17, 2016 on drug distribution charges involving 5 different dates. His motion to dismiss the case for lack of a speedy trial was denied, and his first trial began on September 6, 2016. He was tried a second time, convicted by a jury in each trial, and appealed.
The appellate court noted that in determining whether there has been a violation of a defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial, the courts must balance the length of the delay, the reasons for delay, whether the defendant asserted his right to a speedy trial, and whether he was prejudiced by the delay. Here, the State argued that it twice dismissed the charges because the police continued to observe the defendant while he was out on bond, and observed him engaged in a pattern of continual drug transactions including a possible firearm charge. The State’s decision to ultimately combine the charges in one case was held not to be in bad faith, so that any delay would be determined from the March 16 date to the beginning of trial.
The Court hold no difficulty holding that a less-than-six-month delay was not of constitutional dimension, and that the defendant had not shown prejudice that would violate his right to due process.
Thomas Patrick Ryan is a partner in the Rockville law firm of McCarthy Wilson, which specializes in civil litigation.