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When Does Your Trial Begin?

A Palm Beach County man accused of sexual battery and other crimes recently lost an important appeal that would have resulted in his case being dismissed and the prosecution prohibited from attempting to retry the case. On July 28, 2015, the man’s trial began with voir dire – the process by which lawyers are permitted to ask questions of the jury in order to select 12 fair and unbiased jurors to hear the case. During voir dire, one juror indicated that a criminal defendant should not have a trial but should be “hung outside”, an “offensive” remark that caused the judge to declare a mistrial and dismiss all 70 jurors summoned for voir dire.

Attorneys then moved to have the man’s case dismissed, claiming that because of the delay in bringing the man back into court for another trial he would not be brought to trial within the time period required by law.

The Court of Appeals Rejects the Defendant’s Claim

In this case, the circuit court judge found that the man’s trial had “begun” when the potential jurors were sworn to answer voir dire questions truthfully. Thus, the man had been “brought to trial” (within the meaning of the statute) within the statutorily-required time even though his actual “trial” may not begin until several weeks or months later. The Florida appellate court agreed with the circuit court’s ruling.

Why Does This Case Matter for Criminal Defendants?

When one thinks of defending him- or herself against criminal charges, thoughts naturally turn to favorable or exculpatory evidence or arguing that reasonable doubt as to his or her own guilt exists. But because of the severe consequences that can accompany a criminal conviction, federal and state laws and constitutions provide criminal defendants with certain rights and protections to ensure that the consequences of a criminal conviction are not visited upon any except those who have been found guilty of committing the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. One of these protections is referred to as a defendant’s “speedy trial” rights.

In Florida, a person charged with a misdemeanor must be brought to trial within 90 days of arrest and within 175 days of arrest if the person is charged with a felony. If this does not occur, then typically the criminal case is dismissed and the prosecution is prevented from retrying the defendant for that crime.

Why Do I Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Calculating the amount of time that has elapsed for speedy trial purposes is not always easy: certain actions of the defendant or his or her counsel can “stop” the speedy trial clock for a period of time. For this reason, retaining the services of experienced South Florida criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner is vital. He is thoroughly familiar with the rights criminal defendants are afforded and is ready to ensure those rights are respected and honored in your case. Where your rights are violated, he zealously argues for the appropriate legal remedy – including in some cases a dismissal of your case. Contact the law office of Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. today by calling (305) 670-9919 or contact the office online.

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