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Abstract

Historically, Anglo-American law has jealously guarded the right of an accused to have a speedy trial in a criminal prosecution. It is extended to defendants in federal cases by the sixth amendment to the Constitution. Through incorporation into the fourteenth amendment, the protection is likewise available to defendants in state prosecutions. Notwithstanding constitutional provisions and Supreme Court decisions, the concept of a speedy trial has always been ambiguous. Until recent times it has been considered a matter that could only be defined in the context of the special circumstances of individual cases. The right was said to be “consistent with delays;” thus there has been less than an absolute guarantee that a defendant would be tried within a short time of his arrest of indictment. Society has several vital interests in securing speedy trials in criminal prosecutions. This Note will discuss those interests and examine two plans which represent attempts to give exact definition to the right. One plan was made effective in 1971 by the Judicial Council for the Second Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. The other, the Speedy Trial Act of 1974, is the product of congressional action. By 1979, after a five year break-in period, this Act must be given full effect in all federal courts.

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