Right to a Speedy Trial

Every person charged with an indictable crime (serious misdemeanor up to Class A Felony) in Iowa has the right to a speedy and public trial by a jury.  This prevents the State from dragging a prosecution out forever, leaving a person in constant fear and anxiety of when they will ultimately be brought to trial.  The right to a speedy trial is protected in both the Iowa and United States Constitutions, as well as Iowa statutory provisions which provide for a speedy indictment and a speedy trial. 

Iowa law provides that anyone charged with a serious misdemeanor up to a Class A Felony has the right to a speedy indictment.  This means that the State has a limited period of time in which they can file an indictment (often called a “trial information”) against a person charging them with a criminal offense.  In Iowa, the trial information must be filed within 45 days after an arrest.  If it is not filed within 45 days after an arrest, the court must order the charge dismissed, unless good cause is shown for the failure to timely file the indictment or the defendant waives their right to a speedy indictment.  Good cause is difficult for the State to establish, especially now that many of Iowa’s courts are transitioning to a centralized electronic filing system.

Iowa law also protects a person’s right to a speedy trial.  A person charged with an indictable crime in Iowa must be brought to trial within 90 after the trial information or indictment is filed.  If a trial has not begun within 90 days after the information being filed, the court is required to dismiss the charge, unless the defendant has waived their right to a speedy trial or good cause has been shown.  It is also important to note that the Defendant's own actions can result in a delay of speedy trial being attributed to the defendant and no speedy trial violation occurring.

Even if the defendant waives their right to a speedy trial within 90 days, all criminal cases must be tried within one year after the defendant’s arraignment date, when the court formally approves the charge against the defendant set forth in the indictment, unless the court finds that there is good cause for an extension of time to be granted.

A slip-up by the prosecutor can sometimes result in a charge being dismissed for failing to follow procedure. In today’s fast paced world, the State sometimes forgets to follow the deadlines set forth for them by Iowa and federal law. In those cases, you need a meticulous, detail-oriented attorney who will diligently monitor those deadlines and hold the State accountable to the timelines set forth by law.

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