A defendant’s right to a speedy trial is guaranteed by the United States and California Constitutions. A “speedy” trial means that a person has the right to go to trial within a reasonable time after being arrested and charged with a crime.
What is a “reasonable time”?
In California, “reasonable time” means the following: (1) 30 days for misdemeanor offenses when the defendant is in custody at the time of his arraignment (arraignment is the first court hearing where the defendant is read his rights and can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest); (2) 45 days for misdemeanor offenses when the defendant is not in custody at the time of his arraignment; (3) for any felony offense a defendant has a right to have his trial within 60 days of his arraignment in the superior court.
The right to a speedy trial can be waived. A defendant is entitled to waive his speedy trial rights, which means that they agree in open court to continue their case for a date past the speedy trial period.
In order for this to be done, the defendant must expressly agree on the record in court to “waive time”. Why would a defendant agree to waive his speedy trial rights and have his case essentially delayed?
Often times it is beneficial for defendants to waive their speedy trial rights in order to provide their attorney (or themselves if they do not have an attorney) with more time to strategize or to negotiate a better plea bargain with the district attorney.
On the other hand, there are certain situations where a defendant may not want to waive his speedy trial rights. For example, if they are confident in their defense and want to make the district attorney prepare for trial with less time – to put pressure on the district attorney – they may want to have their trial heard within the speedy trial periods discussed above.