Most people know that the Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to a trial, "without unnecessary delay". However, in the federal system, defendants also have speedy trial rights under statutory law. Specifically, the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 requires a criminal trial to commence within 70 days from the date the Information or Indictment was filed or from the date the defendant appears before an officer of the court during his first appearance, whichever is later. While the Speedy Trial Act may seem simple, it is often the subject of litigation, because the 70 days provided in the act can often actually go much longer before a defendant is entitled to a trial on his criminal charges.
Marc Doggett was charged by indictment with conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine. He called me and made an appointment a few days after he had been arrested in Reston, Virginia. The case itself was in Jacksonville, Florida, so he came to Jacksonville and hired us. I'm not altogether clear how Mr. Doggett found me, but the minute I met him, I knew what his avenue of escape from the clutches of the United States might be. I recall meeting with Marc in the conference room in the afternoon and, during the course of our conversation, I had the folks in the office retrieve a closed file in the case of United States v. A.J.B.1 AJB's case involved the very same issue as Doggett's: the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. I had won AJB's case on a motion to dismiss before the Honorable Charles R. Scott, United States Federal District Judge for the Middle District of Florida. The difference between the two cases was that Mr. Doggett's delay was far longer than AJB's (8-1/2 years versus 32 months).