According to the Supreme Court, your right to a “speedy trial” under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution does not include the time that it takes to receive a sentence after a guilty verdict or plea deal.
Betterman v. Montana
The Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling on May 19, 2016, resolving a key issue in a case that had worked its way through the judicial system from the state courts of Montana.
What happened in the case was actually rather simple: Brandon Betterman was charged for a crime of domestic violence. However, he did not appear in court, leading to his arrest for failure to appear or, as it is called in Montana, “bail jumping.” Now charged with a felony offense, Betterman pleaded guilty, skipping the trial phase of the criminal process and going straight to the sentencing portion.
However, the Montana court system is overloaded – it took nearly five months to complete the presentence report, and it took the court took several more months to deal with only two motions, one of which was actually to dismiss the charge because of how delayed everything had become. By the time Bettermen was sentenced, fourteen months had passed since his guilty plea.
Throughout the process, Betterman was behind bars.
His attorneys appealed his sentence, claiming that the fourteen month delay between conviction and sentence violated his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment. The Montana Supreme Court said that it did not, and the United States Supreme Court took the case.
The Supreme Court Says the Sentencing Is Not a Part of the Trial
One of the biggest pieces of the Supreme Court's decision in Betterman was stating that there are three stages in the criminal process. The first lasts from the criminal investigation until the suspect is charged with a crime. The second stage lasts from charge to conviction. The last stage goes from conviction until a sentence has been issued.
Throughout this process, there are ways that are used to prevent delays. However, in each of these stages, those methods are different. It has long been known that, during the second stage of the criminal process – from criminal charge to a possible conviction – the Sixth Amendment protected against delays by requiring a “speedy trial.” However, it had never been decided when the Sixth Amendment “turned off.”
In Betterman, the Supreme Court decided that the Sixth Amendment “detached” at the time of conviction – your right to a “speedy trial” does not include a right to a “speedy sentencing.”
Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
Just because the Supreme Court has decided that you do not have a right to a speedy sentencing does not mean that courts can let it take forever. There are still other ways to fight for your constitutional rights. Seattle defense attorney Steve Karimi knows this, and will fight for your rights and interests both in and out of court. If you have been charged with a crime in the Seattle area, contact his law office at (206) 621-8777 or online.