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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Speedy trials and the role of jurors

Washington residents who have been accused of committing a crime should be aware that they are guaranteed to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This ultimately means that those accused of committing a crime must be brought to trial within a reasonable time frame.

In the U.S., a speedy trial refers to an appropriate amount of time between the arrest and the commencement of the trial. The amount of reasonable time may vary by state and by the circumstances surrounding the case. However, a court could potentially dismiss a case if it is deemed that too much time has passed between when a defendant was taken into custody and when the trial was scheduled to commence.

For speedy trials, the jury plays an important part in the process. Under the Sixth Amendment, the jury must be "impartial" and represent the community. The jury will consider the evidence put forth by the defendant and by the prosecution. The jurors must reach a unanimous decision in order to find the defendant "not guilty" or "guilty." If the 12 jurors cannot reach a unanimous verdict, the judge could declare a "mistrial." If this happens, the trial may start again or the case may just be dismissed.

When a person is accused of a crime, such as DUI, they may have the option to take a plea deal or go to trial. Because the legal consequences can be severe if the accused person accepts a plea deal or is found guilty by a jury, it is important that he or she receives appropriate legal council so that an informed decision can be made. A criminal defense attorney may advocate for the accused person by providing a strong defense strategy.

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