California Defendants Accused of Crimes Often Wait Years Before Their Day in Court
Thousands of people in California have been sitting in jail for over 3 years while they wait for their day in court, some of them are possibly completely innocent of the crimes they are accused of. The 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial”. This means that if you are arrested for allegations of a crime, you have a right to trial without unreasonable delay. While there are no specific rules as to how long a defendant can sit in jail without trial before their Sixth Amendments rights are violated, the California Judicial Council recommends that felony cases should generally wrap up within twelve months.
Penal Code Section 825
Penal Code section 825 requires that a defendant being held in custody for a misdemeanor or a felony must be brought before a judge “without unnecessary delay” and within 48 hours of their arrest, excluding Sundays and holidays. In a substantial number of cases, the state of California is simply not keeping up with these guidelines and has allowed people accused of crimes to sit in jail for years for various reasons without trial or conviction.
An investigation done by CalMatters, a popular California policy and politics newsroom, reported that over 1,300 people accused of crimes have been awaiting trial in jail for over 3 years, and 332 of those people have been waiting for over 5 years for their day in court. In fact, only three-quarters of felony cases were convicted and closed within the recommended one-year timeframe. These people have not yet been convicted and have suffered serious consequences due to criminal charges that have been filed against them.
Many people are incarcerated for years simply because they cannot afford to pay for bail or hire private representation to help them. If they cannot afford a private law firm to represent them then this means they will often be assigned a public defender to represent them.
Unfortunately in many counties in California, the caseloads being handled by public defenders are well above the level which is recommended by the State Bar of California. The public defender assigned to a case may need to have the case continued in order to properly prepare for the trial. This often means the accused must waive their speedy-trial rights and sit in jail for long periods of time before their case can go to trial or otherwise be resolved. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has made this situation even worse. For the past year, many courtrooms have been shut down and judges have been struggling to manage their busy calendars.
According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, 121 people have been locked up longer than 3 years without being sentenced or convicted of the crimes they are accused of, and 33 of those people have been jailed longer than 5 years. Numerous defendants have not been able to have a preliminary hearing concluded in their case, meaning it has not yet been decided if there is enough evidence for the accused to have to stand trial.
How Long Can You Be Held in Jail Awaiting Trial?
The timeline for when the trial must start depends on whether the crime is being charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. For a misdemeanor jury trial where the defendant is in custody at the time of arraignment, the trial must start within 30 days of arraignment or plea, whichever is later. If the defendant is not in custody, the trial must start within 45 days.
For a felony jury trial, if the judge determines that there is enough evidence for a trial, the prosecutor must file a document called “the Information” within 15 days of the date the defendant was held to answer at the preliminary hearing. Then, the trial must start within 60 days of the arraignment on the Information.
It is important to note that defendants can waive their right to a speedy trial. This means that you agree to have the trial after the required deadline. Before you waive this right, make sure to consult with an experienced defense attorney.
Why Retain Wallin and Klarich?
If you or someone you know has been arrested on criminal charges, you should speak to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today. Our experienced attorneys have been handling criminal matters for over 40 years and will treat your criminal case with the utmost urgency, which could mean less time waiting in jail for your day in court.
You do not have to fight your case alone. Hire Wallin and Klarich today so that you can have your day in court and have an experienced attorney by your side every step of the way. Give us a call to see how we can help you.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich attorney to help you no matter where you are located.
Call our law firm at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (714) 587-5954 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.