Under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, defendants have the right to a speedy trial. If denied that right a defendant can file a Serna motion to have the misdemeanor or felony charges they face dismissed.
Many defendants are unaware that the constitution guarantees them the right to a speedy trial. By hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you can feel confident that all of your rights are being explained to you. You can rest easy, knowing that your attorney will do whatever they can to get the charges against you dropped.
Your Right to a Speedy Trial
In California, your right to a speedy trial is guaranteed both at the federal and state level. The right to a speedy trial is guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at the federal level. Meanwhile, at the state level, a speedy trial is guaranteed under Article I, §15 of the California Constitution.
Both of these laws assure that a defendant will not spend an unreasonable amount of time waiting to go on trial. However, the specific protections offered by these laws vary.
At both the federal and state level, the clock for misdemeanor charges begins at the date of complaint or when any other charging document is filed against you. Alternatively, the clock can start on the date you are arrested, if the arrest is followed by any form of continued restraint.
For a felony charge, however, the laws differ. At the federal level, the clock does not begin when a complaint gets filed. It only starts with an arrest, when a holding order is issued following a preliminary hearing or when an indictment or information is filed. The state constitution expands these rights. California starts the clock for felony charges when a complaint gets filed, as well.
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Determining When Your Rights Have Been Violated
The determination of when your rights have actually been violated can be tricky. When filing a Serna motion under the United States Constitution, several things will be taken into account, including:
- The length of the delay
- The prosecution’s reason for the delay
- Your assertion of your right to a speedy trial in the form of efforts to speed up the process
- The prejudice you suffered as a result of the delay
When filing a Serna motion under the California State Constitution, however, the length of the delay is not taken into account. All that is considered is why the prosecution was delayed and if you suffered prejudice because of the delay. Simply having to wait a long time is not enough to get your charges dismissed.
Even if you feel you have built a strong case to dismiss the charges against you, it is up to the judge to decide whether there has been a violation of your rights or not.
What Is Prejudice Against the Defendant?
Prejudice against a defendant can mean many things. Essentially, it is any harm that the defendant has suffered as a result of the delay. Prejudice can include:
- Long periods of incarceration before the trial
- Anxiety and stress built up from the impending trial and criminal charges
- Additional challenges to the defendant’s ability to defend themselves against the charges
Challenges to the defense the defendant has built can include the death or disappearance of a witness, fading memories of the event in question, stolen evidence, etc.
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What to Do if Your Serna Motion Gets Denied
If your Serna motion gets denied, you have the option of appealing that decision. You should take this opportunity to appeal because it will provide you with not just one but two additional chances of winning your case. If the appeals court reviews the denial and overturns it, your Serna motion will be granted, and the charges against you will be dismissed.
However, if they uphold the decision, you will have to try your luck at court. If convicted at trial, you can appeal your conviction with the argument that your right to a speedy trial was violated. You can argue that the entirety of the proceedings should not have been conducted.
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Hiring an Attorney in California
When facing a criminal charge, it is always critical you hire an experienced lawyer to represent you. At the Simmrin Law Group, we know all the angles to take to win your case. We can ensure we take advantage of your right to file a Serna motion, as well as any other legal options for getting your case dismissed.
Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation today. A member of our team will review your case, answer any questions, and advise you of all your legal rights.