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Right to a Speedy Trial

Your attorney can file a "demand for speedy" trial pursuant to Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.33(2)(b). If the strict time limits for a trial are not met, then your attorney can file a file a motion to dismiss his criminal charge, alleging the State had violated the defendant’s right to a speedy trial.

Under some circumstances, your attorney can file a "moving to dismiss" the charges if the State violated your right to a speedy trial. If your rights to a speedy trial were violated, then the Court can bar the State from pursuing the charges pending against you. Although many people confuse the right to a speedy trial with the statute of limitations, each of these rules serve a different purpose.

If you are facing criminal charges in Des Moines or Polk County, Iowa, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn more about the best strategies to protect your rights. Call (515) 279-9700 today to speak to an attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C..


Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.33(2)

Under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.33(2)(c): “All criminal cases must be brought to trial within one year after the defendant's initial arraignment pursuant to rule 2.8 unless an extension is granted by the court, upon a showing of good cause.” A ninety-day timeframe established under rule 2.33(2)(b).

Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.33(2)(b) provides:

 If a defendant indicted for a public offense has not waived the defendant's right to a speedy trial the defendant must be brought to trial within 90 days after indictment is found or the court must order the indictment to be dismissed unless good cause to the contrary be shown.

Under rule 2.33(2)(b), a criminal charge must be dismissed if the trial does not commence within ninety days from the filing of the charging instrument ‘unless the State proves:

  1. defendant's waiver of speedy trial;
  2. delay attributable to the defendant, or
  3. good cause for the delay.

Waiver of Speedy Trial in Iowa

Acquiescence in the setting of a trial date beyond the speedy trial period is one factor to be considered in determining whether a defendant has waived his speedy trial rights. “The determinative issue ... is whether sufficient additional circumstances were present ... to compel a finding of waiver.” State v. Zaehringer, 306 N.W.2d 792, 795 (Iowa 1981).

In a recent decision by the Iowa Supreme Court, State v. Taylor, 2016 WL 3354424, at *7, after the ninety-day cutoff had already passed, a criminal defendant and her attorney agreed not only to a trial date beyond the speedy trial deadline, but also to a proffer agreement where the defendant would testify at another trial that would not be proceeding for “a number of months.” Id. at *1–2. Under those facts, the two dissenting justices in Taylor explained:

Under our precedent, “mere acquiescence” means “a failure to object to a trial date beyond the period for speedy [ ]trial.” Here we have much more than a failure to object. Instead, as the trial court found, [the defendant] with the assistance of counsel verbally agreed to the timeframe in which her trial would occur and then signed off on the transcript of this verbal agreement.

Id. at *10 (first alteration in original) (citation omitted).

The minority opinion in that case viewed the situation differently by finding: “What the State really argues is not waiver, but mere acquiescence. The State suggests that by not objecting earlier, [the defendant] acquiesced in a later trial date.... But our caselaw rejects mere acquiescence as a basis for waiver of speedy trial rights.” Id. at *7.

The Iowa Supreme Court determined an agreement made by a defendant and her counsel to a trial date beyond the speedy trial deadline, plus an agreement to make a proffer for purposes of a plea agreement, qualifies as “mere acquiescence.”


Good Cause for the Delay

In many of these cases, the State will file a resistance to the motion, arguing the delay was justified. The only factor considered when determining if good cause existed is the reason for the delay. “The burden of proving an exception to the rule's deadline rests squarely with the State.” State v. Miller, 637 N.W.2d 201, 204 (Iowa 2001). The court will determine whether a waiver of speedy trial occurred or whether good cause existed to excuse the delay and allow the defendant’s criminal charge to survive dismissal.

The most common reason for waiving speedy trial is acquiescing to a trial date after the ninety-day deadline. The Iowa Supreme Court has “emphasized that mere acquiescence in setting a trial date is not sufficient to lead to a waiver of speedy trial rights.” State v. Taylor, ––– N.W.2d ––––, ––––, 2016 WL 3354424, at *4 (Iowa 2016).

The State, not the defendant, “has the responsibility for bringing the defendant to trial within the specified period.” State v. Phelps, 379 N.W.2d 384, 387 (Iowa Ct.App.1985). The State must show “an intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege” to prove waiver. Taylor, 2016 WL 3354424, at *4 (citing Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 464 (1938)).

Resolution of a pending motion to suppress has been held to justify continuing a trial from a date within the ninety-day deadline to a date outside the deadline. “In [one case], for example, the defendant's filing of a motion to suppress thirty days after the trial date was set, and only three days prior to trial, justified good cause for a continuance beyond the speedy-trial deadline. Similarly, where multiple defendants' motions to suppress were filed one week before trial, this court found no abuse in the trial court's discretion to continue a trial six days beyond the deadline ‘to permit resolution of the suppression motions, which might have been dispositive of the cases.'" Miller, 637 N.W.2d at 204–05 (citations omitted)).

In determining whether good cause exists, the decisive issue is the reason for the delay. State v. Elder, 868 N.W.2d 448, 453 (Iowa Ct.App.2015). Specifically, the court will consider “whether events that impeded the progress of the case ... were attributable to the defendant or to some other good cause for delay.” State v. Campbell, 714 N.W.2d 622, 628 (Iowa 2006).

The heavy burden of showing a good-cause exception to the one-year speedy-trial deadline rests with the State. State v. Miller, 637 N.W.2d 201, 204 (Iowa 2001). The State will often argue that the defendant cannot show a breach of duty because a delay in the trial was attributable to the defendant’s voluntary absence and evasion of law enforcement.

If the State argues good cause for the delay in bringing the defendant to trial, then it must show efforts to execute the outstanding arrest warrant. For example, in State v. Jentz, 853 N.W.2d 257, 271 (Iowa Ct.App.2013), the court noted the State's duty to provide defendant a speedy trial does not require “it play a game of hide-and-go-seek with him” (quoting State v. Lyles, 225 N.W.2d 124, 126 (Iowa 1975))).


This article was last updated on Friday, September 30, 2016.

Tell Us About Your Case

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