When is there a Denial of a Right to a Speedy Trial in Traffic Court?



You do have a right to a “speedy” trial in Traffic Court for Traffic Citations or Tickets and in all criminal cases. The right to a speedy trial is rooted in a constitutional guarantee of the Right to Due Process and Fundamental Fairness (14th Amendment) in the pursuit of justice in both the US and State Constitutions.

But a speedy trial is rarely something worth thinking about, and most people give up the right without even knowing it. 

The actual number of days that is allowed for a traffic ticket trial varies from State to state. In California, It’s generally interpreted to mean you have a right to a trial within 45 days from the day the court enters your Not Guilty Plea.


The right to a speedy trial does NOT MEAN 45 days from the date you get the ticket. Forget about that idea.

When a defendant gives up the right to a speedy trial, it is called “waiving time”. In court, you may be asked “Do You Waive Time?” which is lawyer short hand for “Do you give up the time requirements?”

Yes, we lawyers intentionally made the short hand question hard for people to understand. It’s easier if you dont understand what is going on.

If the court asks you if you want to “Waive time”, the court is asking you if you waive your right to a speedy trial. Got it?

Sometimes the traffic courts will not even ask you – they just have you waive time without ever asking you if you want a speedy trial. They are sneaky about it = mainly because they have too many cases. Read the paperwork carefully before leaving court if you care about a speedy trial. Go back in if you have to “Pull Your Time Waiver”.

But honestly, usually there is no reason to demand a trial within 45 days. And actually, a delay can help your case, because the officer may quit, move, forget, be missing, in jail herself, etc – so dont fear the delay.

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A notable exception to the rule is if you are in jail. If you are in jail, you probably want a quick trial Unless you are in jail because you are guilty. Then maybe you dont really want a fast trial after all.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FEEL YOUR RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL WAS DENIED BY COURT TRICKERY

If you feel your right to a speedy trial was denied, you still have to show up at the trial in person. Once in court, you need to object by saying:

“Your honor, I need to object to this trial on the grounds that I have been denied the right to a speedy trial.”

After objecting, you need to make a request or “Motion” by saying something like:

“And I make a motion for dismissal on the grounds that by denying my right to a speedy trial, I have been denied Due Process of law as required by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution“.

Then, you need to tell the judge why the delay has hurt your case. Because if there was no harm in the delay, the judge is going to ingore your objection. When a speedy trial denial motion works, it’s because the defendant can show some hard to their case.

The harm to the defendant, or “prejudice” as we call it in confusing lawyer speak, usually comes in the form of some evidence that was lost, or some witness that can no longer be found, etc.

At the very least, by making the objection and motion in court, you will put it on the permanent record. And by doing that, you preserve it as an issue you can

bring up on appeal if you have the motivation to keep fighting. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

SAMPLE SPEEDY TRIAL PROBLEM:

I received a traffic ticket. I pled “not guilty” at the arraignment on Dec. 11 2006 and trial was scheduled for Jan 8. The court then sent a letter rescheduling for Jan 17, 2007. Was my right to a speedy trial violated because it was over 30 days between arraignment and trial?

ANSWER:

The short answer to your question is – No, I don’t think you have a winner here.

However, you should object to the trial date when you show up, and argue that it was a denial of your right to a speedy trial.

Questions? Leave a comment (may have to click on the title).

This legal self help article was written by a licensed attorney and sponsored by Google Ads.


About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
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3 Responses to When is there a Denial of a Right to a Speedy Trial in Traffic Court?

  1. Anthony says:

    My arraignment was the 2nd of June and my trial is set the 11th of August.(70 days) the paper I signed, that notifies me of my rights, defines a speedy trial as one set within 91 days. Even though speedy was defined as within 91 days, do I still have grounds to motion for dismissal due to denial of a right to speedy trial?

  2. Raymond says:

    I came across this page while trying to determine my rights on a toll roads charge placed against my vehicle registration. I got my registration renewal paperwork in mid-November this year (2012) with a $103 surcharge for an alleged toll violation from July 12, 2011–more than 16 months prior. This included a $3 toll, $57.50 non-payment penalty, and $42.50 late charge for an alleged offense that I never committed and never received notification about. The only information included was a violation #, though a reference # was also required to obtain any information on the charge. I had to contact the toll roads to obtain this information and a photo of nothing more than an image of my license plate with nothing else visible in the blackened photo. What are my chances of fighting this? How would I even begin to challenge this? I can’t renew my registration without taking care of this.

    • Raymond,

      Ugh.

      I dont have any useful self help to provide on this one. I can offer to approve anyone else’s ideas. And I can give you a horror story of my own.

      This actually happened to me once. Actually about 30 times!!!!!!

      I live in CA. I sold a car to a dude who looked a little bit off, but what the heck – I’m all for freedom. He said he spoke 8 languages. Got a bill of sale. Got cash. Signed off on the pink slip. Notified DMV of the sale and release of liability on time, then . . . 3 months later . .

      I start getting toll road violation tickets from New Jersey!!!!! A place I have never, ever been to (the factories are too ugly for me), in a car that I do not own.

      And they kept coming and coming and coming and coming.

      Then, I started getting them from Chicago! Right in the middle of dealing with New Jersey toll violations, for a car I did not own, I started getting them from Chicago also for a car I did not own. Last time I was in Chicago? 1990 (getting ready for the last Notre Dame v. Miami game ever – the one where Rocket Ishmail ran that kickoff back as time ran out and it was called back for a fake penalty). Insane craziness.

      Anyway, what I discovered was sockingly unbelievable incompetence and a complete lack of concern for accuracy from every single agency and person I talked to regarding the problem.

      Eventually I had to get copies of DMV’s own copies of the release of liability and pink slip (title) and resend them to DMV (give them their own records) and I got some relief. I think I started suing people at the same time. Or got ready ready to sue them. Or threatened to sue them. Or all of the above, I dont fully remember. But in the end, I did not pay a dime.

      Instead, I used the money to fund this blog to help the innocent. And mostly innocent.

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