Speedy Jury Trials
June 8, 2017
Criminal defendants in Florida and the rest of the nation are guaranteed the right to an attorney under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. They are also entitled to a speedy trial by an unbiased jury.
Criminal defendants should be tried for their alleged crimes within a reasonable time period after their arrest. For most crimes, criminal defendants have a constitutional right to be judged by a jury, which must have no reasonable doubt when issuing a guilty verdict.
While many states have enacted legislation that dictates how soon after charges have been filed that a trial should occur, there is an issue of whether a trial adheres to the requirement for a speedy trial as defined by the Sixth Amendment. There are extreme cases in which the court may dismiss a case if it determines that the time between the arrest and the trial was damaging to the defendant.
A jury should reflect a cross-section of the community and is tasked with evaluating the evidence presented against the defendant and determining whether the defendant is guilty of the charges. It is required for the jurors to be in complete agreement in order to find someone guilty or not guilty of a crime. If a unanimous verdict is not reached and the jury is unable to proceed any further, the judge may be compelled to declare a mistrial. If this occurs, the trial may begin again or the case may be dismissed.
A criminal defense attorney will begin to address the issue of an impartial jury during the voir dire phase when questioning prospective members. If the attorney becomes convinced that a potential juror is biased against the defendant, the juror’s fitness to serve could be challenged.