A speedy trial is the constitutional and statutory right of an individual to be brought before the court within a "speedy" time or be released. Speedy trial rights can be protected at three levels:
- The Federal Bill of Rights. Specifically, the Sixth and 14th amendments provide a federal right to a speedy trial. The federal right, interpreted in Barker v. Wingo, does not specify a particular time frame, but instead relies on a four-factor test for determining if the constitutional right has been violated.
- State Constitutional Rights. Commonly mirroring the federal Sixth Amendment, states generally have adopted the Barker v. Wingo ruling to interpret their own constitutional rights.
- Statutory Rights. Nearly every state has enacted a statutory speedy trial law, so long as they meet the reasonable period threshold described by Barker v. Wingo.
Forty states and Washington, D.C., have statutory rights to a speedy trial, which vary from reciting the constitutional right to specifying the exact days or months that can occur before trial. North Dakota and Tennessee both declare the right to a speedy trial, which is likely interpreted in the same manner as the constitutional right. Delaware, Oregon and Washington, D.C., authorize the dismissal of charges in the event of “unnecessary delay” or failure to commence trial “within a reasonable time.” Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia express time limits by terms of the court. For example, a defendant who demands trial must be tried “at the second term of the court.” The most common approach—enacted in 32 states—provides for express time limits in terms of days or months before trial.