Monday, March 4, 2024

"Speedy Trial" Act

The 131st Maine Legislature

Legislative Document LD 1771 - An Act Regarding Speedy Trials

From the Summary of the bill:

This bill establishes time limits for the commencement of a defendant's criminal trial and provides remedies for when the time limits have been violated.

The Legal Director for the ACLU of Maine, Carol Garvan, supports the bill. Ten other individuals gave testimony to the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary, on May 10, 2023. You can read those here.

The only person who was neither for or against the bill was Andrea Mancuso, Public Policy Director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (MCEDV). And I agree with her. You can read her testimony here.

Passing the bill isn't going to guarantee that the constitutional rights of indigent criminal defendants don't get violated. There's been a lack of private attorneys willing to take on such cases in Maine for many years. A public defender's office was finally funded, and opened late in 2023; I learned about 
The Capital Region Public Defender's Office at Maine Public's website.

However, constitutional rights are being violated in other ways, such as flawed police arrests and investigations, prosecutors and attorneys holding back exculpatory evidence, plea bargains made under duress (all of them are actually), and uneducated, uninformed and/or dishonest jurors convicting defendants. 

The entire justice system needs overhauling. Rules are different depending on a person's wealth! Yes cash bail discriminates against the poor. Here are a few interesting reads about bail and bail reform:

And violations of due process of the law certainly exist in small claims cases and civil trials as well as in criminal cases and trials.

While I think the current crisis needs a solution, I don't agree the solution is to just set the accused free without the possibility of ever being tried for the alleged crime. If you scroll to the bottom of LD 1771, you'll see that's the proposed remedy.

§1493. Remedy for noncompliance with time limit

If a trial does not commence within the time established by statute, the case shall be dismissed with prejudice.