Bottom Line
Road Law
Your right to a not-so-speedy trial

By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella
attorneys at law

 

A recent client called to explain that his new traffic ticket charge should be a “slam dunk” dismissal because he believed the particular court had taken too much time to process his case and set it for trial.

We explained that his case may not have passed the “too much time” requirement and we were doubtful his case was really a candidate for a slam dunk dismissal. He countered, saying he knew his case would be dismissed because the court didn’t give him a “speedy” trial.

The following is a look at the current speedy trial process in the U.S.

Q: I received a ticket in December 2009, and the court date on the bottom of the ticket said that I had to be in court in January 2010. When I went to court, I was told the officer who wrote the ticket hadn’t turned it in and I should call before coming to court next time.

I explained that I haul from coast to coast and I didn’t know if I could come back to court. The clerk said all she knew was I’d be getting a new court date notice in the mail and I could call to enter a plea.

Shouldn’t my case be dismissed because the officer didn’t turn my ticket into the court by the date on my ticket and wasn’t even in court on the date listed on the bottom of my ticket?

A: Let’s answer your question in two parts. First, should your case be dismissed because the officer didn’t turn your ticket into the court by the date listed on the bottom of your ticket? Legally, this fact is your best argument for having your ticket dismissed.  

Sometimes, the court will automatically dismiss your citation if the officer failed to turn it in by the due date.

However, sometimes you may need to wait until the officer submits your citation and contact the court to set the matter for a hearing. Then, once you get a court date set, you can appear and bring this point up with the judge.

We can’t say it’s usual for a case to be dismissed just because the officer fails to submit your ticket to the court by the date listed on the bottom of your ticket. Still, we’ve had this happen a few times, and asking for your case to be dismissed when your ticket isn’t submitted to the court in a timely fashion is worth a shot.

Second, should your case be dismissed because the officer wasn’t in court on your arraignment date listed on the bottom of your ticket? No, in most cases, the date on the bottom of your ticket is only a response or arraignment date – i.e., it’s simply a date whereby you must appear to plead not guilty or submit your not guilty plea to the court before that date. The date on the bottom of your ticket usually isn’t a real, live trial date where the officer would be required to appear.

Q: I got a ticket in Texas almost two years ago. I pleaded not guilty, but I still haven’t got a court date. When I call the court to check on the matter, the clerk tells me it’s still not set for trial. Shouldn’t my case be dismissed because I didn’t get a speedy trial?

A: The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial to defendants in criminal proceedings. The majority of traffic cases are not criminal in nature, and thus the term “speedy” is subjective and can vary from court to court or state to state.

Usually, courts are given great discretion as to what is a reasonable amount of time to set a matter for a speedy trial and prosecute a case. From experience, we’ve had cases go without a trial setting for more than three years, and our requests to dismiss these cases have all been denied. LL


Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to:
Jeff McConnell and
James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City,
OK 73134, call 405-242-2030,
fax 405-242-2040, or e-mail
roadlaw@att.net.

March/April
Digital Edition