Defendants who plead “not guilty” to a traffic violation in California and most states have the right to a court trial within about 45 days. It’s called the right to a speedy trial, and it was created to prevent Defendants from having their defense suffer due to government delay. But in most courts, they will try to trick defendants into giving uo this right to a speedy traffic court trial.
Defense Attorneys commonly recommend that Defendants do not give up or “waive” this right unless they have a clear reason to do so. Here is how to make sure you protect your right to a speedy trial.
Why a Defendant Should Not Give Up the Right to a Speedy Trial In a Traffic Court Case.
A waiver of the right to a trial within 45 days gives the court, and the police more flexibility in setting the trial date. If a defendant waives the right to a speedy trial, the court can give the police officer more time to appear, and may be able to grant a continuance if the officer does not show up for the first trial date.
|This flexibility for the court hurts the defendant in many ways. For example, if there is a waiver of the right to a speedy trial, the court may grant a continuance to help the officer, and the defendant will not be able to request a dismissal because the case did not have a trial within 45 days.|
But if the defendant demands a speedy trial within 45 days, the court will not be able to grant a continuance to help the police or government prove its case.
How a Court can Trick Defendants Into Waiving Their Right to a Speedy Trial.
I’ve seen it in many courthouses, and it hurts me as a lawyer every time. In my opinion, here is how the scam works:
A defendant appears in court at the arraignment, the judge will ask how they plead – “Guilty” or “Not Guilty”. Then, the second question comes in hot and fast - and in secret code – the Judge or “Commissioner” will ask:
“Do You Waive Time?“.
What that question really means is: “Do you give up your right to have a trial within 45 days?” The term “WAIVE” is secret court code for “Give Up”.
Generally, the court will ask this question in a leading way, that makes it sound like the correct answer is “Yes”. And they look at you like you have no choice.
In the rare instance where a defendant questions why that is necessary, the most common response I have witnessed is that the court will insinuate that it will help the defendant because it will allow the court to work around their schedule.
But you do not have to agree. Screw them and their full schedule / work furlow / no budget / laying off employees / closed on Wednesdays problems! The law says they have to set the trial within 45 days. You can demand that they do it.
And in general – my rule #1 of Defense is Never Agree to Give Up Any Rights Unless You Have a Really Good Reason For It.
Most people who are not trained in handling Arraignments and in the law have no idea at all what “Waive Time” means. And most people standing there at the podium in court to plead not guilty are scared, and nervous. Some defendants pee their pants trying to get a trial date.
By asking the question in code, and suggesting that the correct answer is “Yes” without adequately explaining what it means to the defendant, the court can take advantage of a defendant.
How To Plead Not Guilty and Protect Your Right to a Speedy Trial
I recommend that Defendants in traffic court who wish to plead guilty and NOT WAIVE their right to a speedy trial state their plea in this way:
“I plead not guilty to all allegations and DO NOT WAIVE my right to a speedy trial”.
Dont let the judge talk you into “Waiving Time” if you want your right to a speedy trial.
Finally, there are some good reasons to give up a right to a speedy trial. If a defendant needs more time to prepare a defense, or if the evidence is really bad, the defendant may decide that not having a speedy trial is in his/her best interest.
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