FIRST PRINCIPLESConstitutional Matters: Right to a Speedy Trial

2021 (October Term)

United States v. Guyton, 82 M.J. 146 (in accordance with the Sixth Amendment, in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial; although pretrial delay is often both inevitable and wholly justifiable, the right to a speedy trial is as fundamental as any of the rights secured by the Sixth Amendment).

(an appellate court weighs the following four factors to determine if there is a Sixth Amendment speedy trial violation: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reasons for the delay; (3) the accused’s demand for a speedy trial; and (4) the prejudice to the accused).    

2020 (October Term)

United States v. Harrington, 81 M.J. 184 (in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial). 

2013 (September Term)

United States v. Danylo, 73 M.J. 183 (in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial).

(in the military, Sixth Amendment speedy trial protections are triggered upon preferral of charges or the imposition of pretrial restraint).   

(in determining whether an appellant has been denied his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment, an appellate court considers the following factors: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reasons for the delay; (3) whether the appellant made a demand for a speedy trial; and (4) prejudice to the appellant). 

(unless the delay is facially unreasonable, the full due process Sixth Amendment speedy trial analysis will not be triggered). 

(a delay of 116 days to bring appellant to trial after he entered pretrial confinement was not unreasonable for Sixth Amendment speedy trial purposes, where the delay was primarily due to the prosecution’s strategy of turning all four of the other alleged members of a drug ring into witnesses against appellant; such a delay in obtaining immunity for the witnesses was certainly not unusual or inappropriate and did not take an inordinate amount of time; furthermore, the government took that time to investigate the case, convene a pretrial confinement review hearing, prepare and obtain approval for the charges, and hold an Article 32 hearing). 

(an unexplained delay of 170 days by the CCA to resolve the government’s Article 62, UCMJ, appeal of the military judge’s dismissal of charges against appellant while he remained in confinement was not unreasonable for Sixth Amendment speedy trial purposes, where, even though both parties had sought to expedite the processing of the appeal, fewer than six months elapsed between the government’s notice of appeal and the CCA’s decision and the Article 62 appellate process continued deliberately, though slowly). 

(under the Sixth Amendment speedy trial test, there are three similar interests relevant to the prejudice analysis:  (1) prevention of oppressive incarceration pending appeal; (2) minimization of anxiety and concern of those convicted awaiting the outcome of their appeals; and (3) limitation of the possibility that a convicted person’s grounds for appeal, and his or her defenses in case of reversal and retrial, might be impaired; of these forms of prejudice, the most serious is the last, because the inability of a defendant adequately to prepare his case skews the fairness of the entire system). 

(a delay of 350 days to bring appellant to trial after he entered pretrial confinement did not prejudice appellant in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial; although appellant served two months of confinement beyond his adjudged sentence, and claimed that his confinement conditions caused him particularized anxiety and concern, he was credited with the pretrial confinement he served against his adjudged sentence, the confinement conditions were not unique to his case, some of his anxiety could be attributed to his own misconduct while in pretrial confinement, and there was no indication of any loss of evidence or impact to case preparation due to the delay).   

(analysis of a Sixth Amendment speedy trial claim requires consideration of the entire period of delay from arrest (pretrial confinement) or preferral of charges until commencement of trial on the merits; that review spans a continuum of process from review by the convening authority under Article 60 to review by a CCA under Article 66 to review, in appropriate cases, by the CAAF under Article 67). 

(military judge did not err in focusing on the delay caused by the government’s Article 62, UCMJ, appeal, rather than the total period of pretrial delay, in determining whether appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial was violated, where the CCA, by whose judgment the military judge was bound, had already ruled on the first portion and decided that there was no speedy trial issue in the pre-appeal delay). 

2012 (September Term)

United States v. Wilson, 72 M.J. 347 (the constitutional right to a speedy trial is a fundamental right; it is protected both by the Sixth Amendment and Article 10).

2010 (September Term)

United States v. Arriaga, 70 M.J. 51 (whether an appellant has been deprived of his due process right to a speedy appellate review is a question of law that an appellate court reviews de novo; to determine this, the court balances the four Barker/Moreno factors: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reasons for the delay; (3) the appellant’s assertion of the right to timely review and appeal; and (4) prejudice; no single factor is required, but a facially unreasonable length of delay triggers the full analysis). 

(an accused has a constitutional due process right to a timely full and fair review of his findings and sentence). 

(even in the absence of specific prejudice, a constitutional due process violation for post-trial delay still occurs if, in balancing the other three factors, the delay is so egregious that tolerating it would adversely affect the public’s perception of the fairness and integrity of the military justice system; relief in such cases is provided unless an appellate court is convinced that the post-trial delay was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; furthermore, the court may assume a due process violation and proceed straight to the harmless beyond a reasonable doubt analysis; finally, even in instances where post-trial delay was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, the court cannot provide relief where there is no reasonable, meaningful relief available). 

2009 (September Term)

United States v. Thompson
, 68 M.J. 308 (when a servicemember is placed in pretrial confinement, Article 10, UCMJ, provides that immediate steps shall be taken to inform the accused of the charges and to either bring the accused to trial or dismiss the charges; Article 10 creates a more exacting speedy trial demand than does the Sixth Amendment). 


(because Article 10 imposes a more stringent speedy trial standard than the Sixth Amendment set forth by the Supreme Court in Barker v. Wingo, 407 US 514 (1972), Sixth Amendment speedy trial standards cannot dictate whether there has been an Article 10 violation). 



United States v. Tippit, 65 M.J. 69 (the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution provides that the accused in a criminal prosecution shall enjoy the right to a speedy  trial; a four-part test has been established for assessing whether a delay amounts to a Sixth Amendment constitutional violation, requiring a balancing of the length of the delay, reasons for the delay, whether the accused demanded a speedy trial, and any prejudice to the accused from the delay; in addition to the Sixth Amendment, timely processing also is subject to assessment under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment). 


(an unconditional plea of guilty which results in a finding of guilty waives any speedy trial issue as to that offense under the Sixth Amendment).


United States v. Anderson, 50 MJ 447 (analysis of a claim that charges should have been dismissed for a violation of RCM 707, the standard of review is whether the military judge abused his discretion).

United States v. Doty, 51 MJ 464 (the conclusion whether an accused received a speedy trial is a legal question that is reviewed de novo; any underlying findings of fact by the military judge are given substantial deference and will be reversed only for clear error).

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