U.S. Supreme Court Says Sixth Amendment Does Not Guarantee Speedy Sentencing

Supreme Court Speedy Sentence

As we have talked about recently on this blog, the right to a fair trial is one of the cornerstones of the American criminal justice system. Of course, amidst local and national concerns of false testimony by law enforcement and apparent flaws in forensic evidence processing, many wonder if a fair trial is an impossible ideal.

Be that as it may, the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” This means that a defendant has the right not only to a fair, public trial, but also a speedy one. The United States Supreme Court, however, has ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial does not extend to the sentencing phase once a defendant has been convicted.

Betterman v. Montana

The case before the high court essentially began with a guilty plea by a man in Montana for skipping bail in 2012 and failing to appear on charges for domestic assault. The man then waited in prison for more than 14 months for his sentence to be determined, much of the wait blamed on institutional delays by the court. The man was ultimately sentenced to seven years in prison, with four of the years suspended. He appealed his sentence on the basis that the 14-month delay violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.

The Court’s Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed with the Montana Supreme Court that the Sixth Amendment does not apply once a defendant has been convicted. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion of the court, stating that the Sixth Amendment is intended to protect the rights of the accused, not the convicted. The right to a speedy trial is meant to alleviate the pressures of being publicly charged with a crime—and presumed innocent until proven otherwise—and that is in the best interest of everyone involved to move quickly to determine guilt. The court held that once guilt has been established, the Sixth Amendment no longer applies. In addition, the only available remedy available for violating a person’s right to a speedy trial is a dismissal of the charges. Such a remedy, Justice Ginsburg wrote, would not be in the interest of justice following a conviction.

Narrow Ruling

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, a defendant who has been convicted is not totally without rights. The court expressly acknowledged that its ruling is limited to challenges based on the Sixth Amendment. Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Sonia Sotomayor each wrote a concurring opinion suggesting that delays in sentencing may be better addressed by challenges based on the rights to due process guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Justice Thomas wrote, “We have never decided whether the Due Process Clause creates an entitlement to a reasonably prompt sentencing hearing.” In agreement, Justice Sotomayor said, “I write separately to emphasize that the question is an open one.” Regarding the case at hand, the original defendant’s counsel clearly stated they were not advancing a claim regarding the Due Process Clause, so the court issued no opinion on the matter.

Experienced Criminal Defense Assistance

If you have been charged with a crime, you need a lawyer who will fight to protect your rights at every stage of the process. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Will County to discuss your case and to learn more about your available options. Call 815-740-4025 today for a free consultation at the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba.

Chicago Police Investigating Officers for False Testimony

Criminal False Testimony

When you are accused of any type of criminal activity, your right to a fair trial is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A fair trial presumes that everyone involved is invested in the equal application of the law, properly convicting the guilty, and acquitting those who are not guilty by legal standards. Of course, not every person will always tell the whole truth in court, even under oath. The concern becomes even more serious when the individual providing false, misleading, questionable testimony is an officer of the law. False testimony by police officers seems to be a fairly significant problem in Northern Illinois, as the Chicago Police Department has announced that six officers are now under investigation for false testimony regarding cases in which they were involved.

Investigative Reporting

The Chicago Tribune recently conducted an investigation which allegedly found more than a dozen examples of officers making false or questionable statements in court. This number does not include many more officers who may have created false reports but never testified in the courtroom. The involved cases ranged from large-scale investigations to small-time operations, and reportedly included testimony regarding a $50,000 brick of cocaine and a $30 bag of heroin. Some officers, according to the newspaper investigation, would even lie about the direction they were driving at a given time. Now, it appears, the Department is attempting to address the problem.

Promises of Action

“Police officers take an oath to enforce the law with the highest degree of honesty and integrity,” said a Chicago Police Department spokesman in a prepared statement. “And there is simply no tolerance or exemption for anything less.” The spokesman also confirmed that Internal Affairs is looking into the testimony of at least six officers. Depending upon the findings of the investigation, he said, the officers in question could face disciplinary action. The Department will also be conferring with prosecutors to determine the next steps in each case.

If the Chicago Police Department finds that any of the officers provided false testimony, it could call into question their credibility in any case on which they worked. It is difficult to say for sure how those other cases may be affected, but there is certainly cause for concern.

Get the Help You Need

Being accused of a crime is always serious. If you have been charged, however, based on a false report or statement made by a police officer, the road ahead can be even tougher. To discuss your case, contact a Joliet criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Jack L. Zaremba is a former prosecutor who knows the lengths to which some officers will go to secure a conviction no matter what the actual truth may be, and he is prepared to help protect your rights. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free initial consultation today.

Study Suggests Tests for Marijuana Impairment Not Based in Science

Joliet Marijuana DUI Lawyer

Even as Illinois lawmakers consider a bill that would, for the first time, provide a marijuana intoxication standard for charges of driving under the influence (DUI), a new study claims that the foundation for such standards is seriously flawed. The study even went so far as to suggest that setting legal limits of THC in a driver’s blood has no scientific basis and that comparing the effects of alcohol and marijuana on a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

BAC and THC Levels

Across the country, a driver found to have a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08 is considered to be under the influence, as decades of research have supported a relationship between BAC levels and impairment. With the increase in legalized use of marijuana, including recreational use in several states and medical use in about two dozen, including Illinois, lawmakers and law enforcement officials have been looking for a similar way to relate marijuana impairment to a quantifiable standard.

Thus far, six states have enacted laws that base charges of DUI for marijuana on the levels of THC—the chemical in marijuana that produces the effects of the “high”—found in the driver’s blood. Similar measures are being considered in a number of other states, with one in Illinois expected by many to be passed soon. The Illinois law would set a DUI standard of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood, while others around the country vary from state to state.

Troubling Research

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, an offshoot of the American Automobile Association, released a study this month that challenges the idea that a “quantitative threshold” can be effectively used to determine a driver’s level of impairment. Reviewing more than 5,000 case reports, the study found that quantitative analysis of THC levels would have misclassified a substantial number of drivers, either as impaired or as not impaired when a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) showed otherwise. In other words, many who failed the SFST would have been under the legal limit, while many who passed the SFST would have been well above the legal limit.

The Foundation recommends training law enforcement officers to detect driver impairment rather than relying on number-based standards that are not scientifically valid. It remains to be seen how, if at all, the study will affect public policy in the states with existing standards and those who are considering enacting them.

Charged With Drugged Driving?

If you are facing charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you need an attorney who is ready to fight for you. Contact experienced Joliet criminal defense lawyer Jack L. Zaremba today to schedule your free consultation. He will meet with you to discuss your case and help you find a resolution that protects your rights and your future.


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