Colleen Cullen

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The United States Constitution and all fifty states guarantee a speedy trial right for individuals accused of crimes. The controlling United States Supreme Court case, decided over fifty years ago, described the Sixth Amendment as a fundamental right with Fourteenth Amendment Due Process implications. Although the right to a speedy trial is a universally recognized right, this Article compellingly demonstrates the right is actually nonexistent throughout the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted and exacerbated this previously unrecognized problem in courthouses across the country, which has led to news outlets finally covering the issue of the nonexistent speedy trial. This Article provides a groundbreaking analysis of the laws addressing the speedy trial right in all states and the federal government, reviewing all constitutions, statutes, and rules of criminal procedure. This Article is the first in legal scholarship to explore the speedy trial right without focusing on a specific jurisdiction, and it includes the first fifty-state survey on this topic. This unprecedented fifty-state survey reveals that the current laws addressing speedy trial are grossly inadequate, allowing courts to regularly and routinely deprive the accused of timely trials. The main problems with the current laws are the lack of strict timelines and meaningful remedies. Fourteen states do not provide a timeline. Eleven states have obscenely long timelines in excess of six months for even the most basic trials. Additionally, my exhaustive research exposes that nine states have no remedy if the speedy trial right is violated. Seven of those nine states have neither a defined timeline nor remedy. To solve this pervasive national problem, Part IV includes a proposed law that judges and legislatures should use to ensure the speedy trial is truly a right guaranteed to all accused of a crime.