It’s common knowledge that Americans are constitutionally guaranteed a speedy trial. This right is important for two key reasons. Defendants are innocent until proven guilty, so time spent in custody should be limited as much as possible until a verdict or plea is reached. Additionally, defendants should be given the right to move on with their lives without the specter of protracted criminal litigation looming over them.
In practice, however, the wheels of the legal system often grind slowly — and not always in a uniform manner.
The California Penal Code is written to help ensure that defendants enjoy access to speedy preliminary hearings. Section 859b of the Code established that defendants must be given a preliminary hearing within 60 days (or 10 court days) of their arraignment.
Should this time period elapse, the California Penal Code mandates that the court shall dismiss the complaint unless one of two things occurs: The defendant agrees to extend it (not likely in most cases) or the state can show “good cause” for a continuance.
What Triggers the Countdown?
The 10 court day / 60 calendar day time limitation is triggered by one of three events:
- An arraignment
- A plea
- Reinstatement of criminal proceedings
Because three events can act as a trigger, state law specifies that the clock will begin running in accordance with whichever of the events occurs last.
Which Days Are Counted?
Not all days are equal in terms of preliminary hearing countdowns. The first day is excluded and the last day is included, unless the last day falls on a holiday. Other than this distinction, all calendar days are included in the count.
Court days include all calendar days except for Saturdays and Sundays and designated holidays. The holidays listed in the California Government Code include the following:
- January 1st
- The third Monday in January, or “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day”
- February 12th, or “Lincoln Day”
- The third Monday in February, March 31st or “Cesar Chavez Day”
- The last Monday in May and July 4th
- The first Monday in September
- September 9th, or “Admission Day”
- The fourth Friday in September, or “Native American Day”
- The second Monday in October, or “Columbus Day”
- November 11th, or “Veteran’s Day”
- December 25th
- Good Friday from 12 noon until 3 p.m.
By understanding how days are counted — and which days count — attorneys and their clients can arrive at a precise determination of when the state is obligated to hold a preliminary hearing.
Finding the Right California Criminal Defense Attorney
At Goldstein Law Group, we have the experience to handle even the most complex criminal litigation — and the compassion to zealously defend the rights of our clients. Contact us today if you’re in need of a consultation.