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Speedy trial refers to one of the rights is guaranteed by the United States Constitution to defendants in criminal proceedings. The right to a speedy trial, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, is intended to ensure that defendants are not subjected to unreasonably lengthy incarceration prior to a fair trial.[citation needed] Violations of the principle, such as where the state has failed to bring the case to trial for an "unreasonable" length of time, may be a cause for dismissal of a criminal case.

In the United States, the length of time can either be defined by statute (for example, in New York, the prosecution must be "ready for trial" within six months on all felonies except murder, or the charges are dismissed by action of law without regard to the merits of the case), or determined by a court under a substantive theory based on the Sixth Amendment; which states: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial..." This argument is typically made in cases in which a significant amount of time has lapsed between the date of the commission of the crime and the date of arrest.

Most, if not all, statutes defining the period of speedy trial time also include various exceptions to this rule. Examples of such exceptions are periods of time in which the delay preceding the trial is due to the request of the defense, or if there is good cause.



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