Speedy Trial Act--Its Impact on the Judicial System Still Unknown

GGD-79-55: Published: May 2, 1979. Publicly Released: May 2, 1979.

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Federal law requires that a Federal criminal case be processed within the established time frames totaling 100 days. Generally, cases not processed within this period, as extended by allowable delays, must be dismissed with or without prejudice. To allow district courts to move smoothly toward the 100-day limit, legislation provided a 4-year phase-in period during which time specific steps were to become effective gradually.

The district courts did not develop sufficient data to identify the reasons for implementation problems. During the phase-in period, the courts relied on limited data and subjective judgments of court officials, judges, and U.S. attorneys rather than on a systematic evaluation of empirical data to document the problems in meeting the time frames. As a result, limited evidence exists for suggesting either procedural or legislative time frame changes. Nonetheless, the Judicial Conference, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, and the Department of Justice have taken the position that Congress should lengthen the time frame cumulatively from 100 to 180 days. However, there is no assurance that the action called for is neccessary and that it would have the desired effect.

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