A speedy trial demand is an important constitutional right afforded to all criminal defendants. The exercise of this right, however, is very serious and complex, and one should not go about this alone but should instead consult with – and follow the recommendation of – an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Speedy trial demands are governed by 725 ILCS 5/103-5. Every person in custody in Illinois shall proceed to trial within 120 days of filing the speedy trial demand. The 120-day term must be one continuous period of incarceration. For a person who is out on bond, they must proceed to trial within 160 days of filing a speedy trial demand. The legislature’s rationale with this difference in the number of days is that people who are in custody should be brought to trial sooner because they are incarcerated, while people out on bond are at least able to live a semblance of their normal lives and will not be greatly prejudiced by an extra 40 days on their speedy trial demand.
It is generally not a good idea to file a demand early in the criminal case. It is generally not a good idea to file a speedy trial demand before your attorney has received all of the discovery. It is generally not a good idea to demand that your attorney file the speedy trial demand, when he or she recommends that it not be filed.
All of these warnings are to reinforce the idea that the speedy trial demand is a powerful and complex strategy with significant ramifications. An experienced criminal defense attorney understands the nuances and the ramifications of filing the speedy trial demand, and whether or not it will harm or benefit their client. When an experienced criminal defense attorney makes a recommendation for or against filing the speedy trial demand, it should be strongly considered by the defendant, as the attorney is better aware of how the demand will affect the positioning of the case.
The term of the speedy trial demand can be broken if the defendant agrees to another continuance; if the defendant does not agree to the continuance, then the demand will continue to run.
Additionally, there is often a period of time between the bond hearing or preliminary hearing and the arraignment in which the speedy trial demand runs. This is because typically, judges at a bond hearing might enter a trial demand on behalf of the defendant, or an attorney might strategically ask for the demand to run knowing that it will soon be broken at the arraignment. At arraignments, the next continuance is typically by agreement, which breaks the term. However, the period of time between the bond hearing and the arraignment can be approximately four weeks, which means that if a defendant in custody later decides, upon advice of counsel, to demand a speedy trial, 30 days have already run on his demand, which means that his case must proceed to trial within 90 days.
There are many considerations that must be taken into account before filing a demand. Most criminal defendants are not aware of these multi-faceted considerations with far-reaching effects on the case, and as such are not qualified to decide on their own whether it is in their best interest to demand or not. An experienced criminal defense attorney, who is aware of and can meaningfully consider all of the factors, should be consulted regarding the decision to file a speedy trial demand.