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Unreasonable delay of criminal trial could violate rights

An arrest by Wisconsin law enforcement authorities that result in criminal charges being filed initiates a defendant's rights under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Under this part of the Bill of Rights, a criminal defendant has a right to a speedy trial although the circumstances of the case could support reasonable delays.

If the defendant's representative contests the reasons for the delays, a court might review the challenge. Valid complaints about the delay between arrest and trial could cause a court to dismiss the case.

The same amendment enshrines the right to a trial decided by an impartial jury. The jury should consist of people that represent a cross section of society. For a jury to issue a guilty verdict, the members must not harbor any reasonable doubts about the person's role in the crime. The unanimous agreement of the 12 jurors must form the guilty or not guilty decision. Otherwise, a jury that cannot agree internally will result in a mistrial. When that happens, the criminal case could be dismissed or the prosecution might start a new trial.

These legal rights sometimes empower the defense strategies of attorneys representing people charged with crimes. The jury aspect often begins with the voir dire proceeding, in which the defense attorney has the opportunity to ask questions of potential jurors to see among other things if there is any explicit or implicit bias being shown against the defendant. If so, the attorney might be able to exclude such a person from the jury pool. As a result, people who are facing serious charges should have the assistance of an attorney well in advance of the trial.

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