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Speedy Trial Rights – 6th Amendment

The 6th Amendment guarantees an accused individual the right to a speedy trial.  The question then arises what is “speedy”?  The definition of “speedy” depends on a number of circumstances including the jurisdiction, the Court, the charges, and the reason for any delays.

In New Mexico, particularly in Albuquerque, the definition of “speedy” in misdemeanor cases has been 182 days from the date of arraignment.  Six months was more of a guideline for more serious charges, and these cases often took longer.  Recently, the New Mexico Supreme Court in State v. Garza (NM 2009) rewrote the rules on speedy trial rights in New Mexico.

The Court in State v. Garza set forth guidelines for the determination of speedy trial rights:

  • 12 months for simple cases,
  • 15 months for cases with intermediate complexity, and
  • 18 months for complex cases.

The Court left a many questions such as the definitions of simple, intermediate complexity and complex.  More importantly, the Court stated that these periods are guidelines and mere thresholds for additional inquiry.

In short, “speedy” will be determined by the judge in the case.  This determination will be dependent upon the complexity of the case.  However, it appears that this determination is left to the discretion of the judge.

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