What Does It Mean To Demand Trial In A Criminal Case?

Demand-for-Trial-300x201Clients frequently tell me that they want to get their criminal case done quickly. I am frequently told by clients that I should demand a trial immediately so that the case can be finished as soon as possible. It is important to understand what it means to make a demand for trial in a criminal case and why it may not always be the wisest decision to make. I want to take this opportunity to discuss what it means to demand a trial and explain to my readers what the implications of a demand for trial could be so they can make the best decision about how their criminal case should proceed.

According to the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, every criminal defendant has the constitutional right to a Speedy Trial. The Sixth Amendment protects defendants from waiting too long for a trial. We don’t want Defendants to be held in custody, or to be fighting criminal charges, to wait too long before being found innocent. The remedy for the violation of your Sixth Amendment right to a Speedy Trial is dismissal of your criminal case, with prejudice. This means that your case will be dismissed forever and you can never be charged again for that crime.

The right to a Speedy Trial is also set forth in the Illinois Constitution. However, the United States Constitution, and the Illinois Constitution, do not provide details about how much time you have to be tried in a criminal case. The time limits are set forth in a specific Statute in Illinois which provides the details of how much time the state has to bring you to trial once you make a Speedy Trial Demand. If you have been released from jail, the state has 160-days to bring you to trial from the date that you make a formal written Demand for Trial. If you are in custody, the state has 120-days from the date that you made a formal written Demand for Trial to bring you to trial.

In order for a defendant’s Demand for Trial to be legally binding, it must be in writing and must be filed with the Court. If your trial is delayed prior to the expiration of the above time limits, the delay cannot be caused by the defendant. This means that the defendant must not have asked for a continuance after making a formal written Demand for Trial. The defendant must not have made a request for more time or asked for a continuance without the agreement of the State. In addition, any delay must not have been caused by the defense. So, if the Defendant, or the defendant’s lawyer, fail to appear in Court for any reason, and the case has to be continued, the Demand for Trial will be tolled. This means that the time limit for the state to bring the Defendant to trial, will be paused, or put on hold, for the delay caused by the defense. If you have made a written Demand for Trial, you cannot object to any future Court date set by the Court. So once a formal Written Demand for Trial is filed, you cannot object to any future trial date set by the Court.

One of the dangers of making a written Demand for Trial, is that you may not get all of the evidence that the State will be using against you before trial, and you will lose your ability to object and have the evidence excluded at your trial. In all criminal cases, the State has an obligation to provide you, and your lawyer, with all of the evidence that they intend to use against you at your trial. Not only is the State required to give you all of the evidence that proves your guilt, they are also required to give you any evidence that tends to show that you are not guilty. The main reason or delays in a criminal case are due to the State needing more time to obtain the evidence that they are required to turn over to the defense. If the State does not turn over all of the evidence they have against you, they will not be allowed to introduce that evidence at your trial. If the State fails to turn over exculpatory evidence to you, you can seek to have the case dismissed for a discovery violation. However, if you have filed a written Demand for Trial, you give up your right to ask to have the case dismissed because the State did not giving you all of the evidence before trial. This includes inculpatory, and exculpatory evidence.

Whether or not to make a formal written Demand for Trial is a strategic decision that you should make in close consultation with your lawyer. I have had cases where a formal written Demand for Trial made sense. Several years ago, I had an Attempted Murder case at 26th and California where the victim had left the country. My client’s family found out that the victim would not be coming back to the country. In that case, I reviewed all of the evidence and determined that the only way the State could prove the case was to have the victim testify. I made a written Demand for Trial and since the state could not produce their victim, the case was ultimately dismissed. However, in the overwhelming majority of criminal cases that I’ve handled, a formal written Demand for Trial would not have been the best move to make. If you are facing a criminal charge, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine whether a formal written Demand for Trial would be the best move to make for your case.

James Dimeas, is a nationally-recognized, award-winning, criminal defense lawyer, with over-28 years of experience handling criminal cases in Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County. Recently, James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer in the State of Illinois for the Year 2018 and 2019” by the American Society of Legal Advocates. James Dimeas was named a “Best DUI Attorney” and a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago” by Expertise. James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer” by the National Trial Lawyers. The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys awarded James Dimeas the “Top 10 Attorney Award for the State of Illinois.” James Dimeas is rated “Superb” by AVVO, the highest rating possible for any criminal defense lawyer in the United States. The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys recognized James Dimeas as a “10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction.” Attorney and Practice Magazine gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney Award for Illinois.

If you are facing criminal charges, you can contact James Dimeas anytime for a free and confidential consultation. You can always talk to James Dimeas personally by calling him at 847-807-7405.

Additional Resources:

725 ILCS 5/103-5, Illinois Speedy Trial Statute.

6th Amendment, Right to a Speedy Trial.

Additional Blogs:

What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing in Illinois, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 23, 2017.

Veterans Court, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, October 23, 2017.