Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chicago Criminal lawyer wonders if the Speedy Trial Law is at risk

This Chicago Criminal lawyer has successfully defended her clients on many occasions through the use of Illinois Speedy Trial statute. Under Illinois Speedy Trial statute, 725 ILCS 103-5(a) any person in custody demanding trial shall be tried within 120 days of an oral or written trial demand assuming no cause for delay is attributed to the accused. If the accused is not in custody the statute does apply, but the state has 160 days and the trial demand must be in writing with a listing of prior demands and their dates, 725 ILCS 103-5 (b).

Yes there are exceptions to this rule and now comes news of just such an exception.

In People v. William Spears, No. 2-08-0976, the the 2nd district affirmed the trial court's ruling that the state appropriately received an extension. In this case, Mr. Spears was charged with home invasion and in custody. While in custody he continued to exercise his demand for a trial and there is no question that the trial was not delayed by him. The government asked for continuances to complete DNA testing and they were granted by the trial court. Therein lies the rub, one of the exceptions to the Illinois Speedy Trial statute is for cases just like Mr. Spears. Specifically, 725 ILCS 103-5(c) states:

If the court determines that the State has exercised without success due diligence to obtain results of DNA testing that is material to the case and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that such results may be obtained at a later day, the court may continue the cause on application of the State for not more than an additional 120 days.
While the Speedy Trial statute is important in protecting the rights of the accused by forcing the government not to drag a case on and on, it still has its limitations. The problem rests with the exceptions. Once there is an exception for DNA, what other exceptions will appear? Eventually, the exceptions could make the law one that exists on the books only, not unlike Illinois Supreme Court Rule 504. It's a "directory, not mandatory, rule" with specific exceptions where it won't be applied like the Third Appellate District's opinion in People v. Courtney Love No. 3-08-0518 ( no, not the rock star) permits the government to refile charges even if they are dismissed pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rules.

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