Dedicated Georgia Attorneys

Can You Hurry Up the Case? - Statutory Speedy Trial Demand

A lot of times clients will ask us whether or not we can “hurry up the case”. This is a reasonable request especially when the defendant is in custody. The desire to get out of jail is obviously significant, but there is also a desire for people out of custody to go ahead and resolve their case as soon as possible in order to get the proverbial monkey off their backs so to speak. The solution to this problem is to file a speedy trial demand under OCGA 17-7-170.

When a defendant has been indicted for a noncapital offense, he may, as a matter of right, file demand for trial at that term of court or at the next following regular term. Such a demand should be filed with the clerk of court, served upon the prosecutor in the case and upon the assigned judge, or if no judges assigned, upon the chief judge of the court in which the case is pending. A demand for a speedy trial must: be filed as a separate, distinct, and individual document. Clearly be titled Demand for speedy trial, identify the indictment number or accusation number for which such demand is being made. Failure to serve the court will invalidate the demand. Baker v. State, 270 Ga. App. 762 (2004).

After the second term, the demand may only be filed if the court grants permission. OCGA 17-7-170, State v. Benton, 246 Ga. 750 (1980). If a defendant files a pro se demand for a speedy trial while represented by counsel, the trial court is authorized to find that the pro se demand has no legal effect whatsoever. This is true because in Georgia a defendant no longer has a right to represent himself if he is represented by counsel. Maddox v. State, 218 Ga. App. 320 (1995). The Georgia Supreme Court held that a public defender’s office is to be considered a law firm in deciding whether a defendant has representation. This means a defendant is not unrepresented merely because different attorneys from the same office represent him at different times. Ware v. State 267 Ga. 510 (1997).

In addition to the specific statutory limitations, there is a more general right of a defendant to a speedy trial which is contained in the constitution. The leading case of the United States Supreme Court is Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972), Jackson v. State, 272 Ga. 782 (2000). Where such a demand for trial is filed and there are juries impaneled and qualified to try the defendant at the time, he shall be acquitted of the offense charged if he is not tried at that term or at the next term if there is a jury at the next term qualified to try him. Roebuck v. State, 57 Ga. 154 (1976). OCGA 17-7-170, Adams v. State 129 Ga. App. 839 (1973). If the defendant has not been tried by the expiration of the second term, he may file a motion for his discharge. The motion must allege that qualified jurors were impaneled to try him both terms. Woodall v. State, 25 Ga. App. 8 (1920).

In light of the extreme nature of the sanction of absolute discharge and acquittal, it is applied only where there has been strict compliance with OCGA 17-7 170 or OCGA 17-7-171, whichever is the applicable statute prescribing the means by which a criminal defendant may assert a demand for trial. State v. Varner, 277 Ga. 433 (2003). A defendant loses his right to automatic discharge if he withdraws his demand for trial before the end of the second term. Dempsey v. State, 156 Ga. App. 806 (1980).

Contact Howard and Arca today in order to get the attention you need for your case in Paulding County.