The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that people who are subject to a criminal prosecution have the right to a "speedy" trial before an impartial jury of their peers. The right to a speedy trial is also included within Article II Section 24 of the Arizona State Constitution.
To protect a criminal defendant's speedy trial rights, the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that people who are in custody must be brought to trial within 150 days of their arraignment. "In custody" generally refers to defendants who are being held at a county jail facility in lieu of bond and are awaiting trial. For people who have been released from jail while their criminal case is pending, trial must occur within 180 days of arraignment. Certain matters which have been designated as "Complex Cases" such as murder or charges involving numerous witnesses or scientific evidence must be brought to trial within 270 days. The time limits for trials in death penalty cases is two years from the date upon which a notice to seek the death penalty is filed by a prosecutor. As many people charged with felony, misdemeanor and DUI offenses in Arizona often experience, these time limits are routinely extended for various reasons. However, violations of a defendant's speedy trial rights can lead to a dismissal of criminal charges against him or her.
With the spread on COVID 19 beginning in February and the current spike in cases, the Arizona Supreme Court has issued an order temporarily suspending the Rules of Criminal Procedure pertaining to the time a person must be brought to trial. This is referred to as "Rule 8." Moreover, the superior, justice and city courts have halted jury trial through the beginning of July. Consequently, this has resulted in a backlog of cases and will cause people to incur delays in resolving their pending criminal charges.
Despite the misfortune of having to remain in custody while a case is pending or enduring a lengthy delay prior to trial, there are a number of advantages which may arise. The phrase "time is on your side" certainly applies to people who have been charged with criminal offenses. Delay often causes prosecutors difficulty in keeping track of witnesses. Moreover, memories fade and people may begin to doubt their willingness to come and testify in court. Finally, additional time allows defense attorneys to research legal issues, locate favorable witnesses, conduct further investigation and potentially negotiate a much more favorable outcome. Consequently, if your case is being delayed by the coronavirus or for any other reason, you are well advised to focus on the positive results which may occur rather than demand your trial proceed as quickly as possible.