What is the critical period between arrest and trial for the purposes of the Sixth Amendment?

California, United States of America

The following excerpt is from People v. MacDonald, 111 Cal.Rptr. 266, 36 Cal.App.3d 103 (Cal. App. 1973):

Before doing so we point out that, although counsel have argued the question of waiver, we do not reach that issue. If the defendants waived their constitutional rights to speedy trial, there would be no need to determine whether the delay exceeded constitutional limits. The trial court did not find a waiver, though it expressly found some of the facts which are ingredients of waiver. One factual matter not covered by the trial court's findings was whether or not the defendants acted 'intelligently and understandably.' (See Barker v. Wingo, Supra, 407 U.S. at pp. 525--526, 92 S.Ct. 2182.) Since we have concluded that neither the state nor federal Constitution was violated by the delay under the circumstances of this case, it is not necessary to determine whether the record would support or compel a finding of waiver.

Page 270

The Balancing Test of Barker v. Wingo.

In Barker v. Wingo, Supra, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 33 L.Ed.2d 101, the court dealt with a delay between arrest and trial amounting to more than five years, resulting [36 Cal.App.3d 110] from a number of circumstances, which did not include the defendant's absence. The court concluded it would accept 'a balancing test' which 'necessarily compels courts to approach speedy-trial cases on an Ad hoc basis.' The four factors to be weighed are 'Length of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant.' (407 U.S. at p. 530, 92 S.Ct. at p. 2192.)

We therefore proceed with an analysis of the record before us within that framework.

(a) Length of delay. We assume that each of the defendants became an 'accused' within the meaning of the Sixth Amendment when complaints were filed and warrants were issued for their arrests in 1965. (See Jones v. Superior Court (1970) 3 Cal.2d 734, 739, 91 Cal.Rptr. 578, 478 P.2d 10.) Defendants were not available for trial in California while they were in Maryland custody until February 10, 1966, when they commenced their terms of imprisonment there. Upon that date they became available to California under the interstate compact upon request by an 'appropriate officer.' The critical period is between that date and May 25, 1970, when they were first arraigned before a California court.

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