Hurry up and wait

What will happen to your right to a speedy trial? The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees it. It refers to criminal offenses of course but remember that in California, a traffic offense is a criminal offense so…? OK, I may be getting ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning. Budget […]

What will happen to your right to a speedy trial? The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees it. It refers to criminal offenses of course but remember that in California, a traffic offense is a criminal offense so…? OK, I may be getting ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning.

Budget cuts, financial crisis, these are terms you’ve been hearing about recently or maybe I should say more often recently. The courts will be definitely affected and traffic courts will be included. Lawsuits, divorces, custody fights… all delayed because of the $350 million slashed from the budget.

San Francisco Superior Court may be one of the hardest hit sending layoff notices to 40% of its employees. Throughout the state work in the courtrooms will slow down due to lack of staff, matters will be calendared months into the future. Fighting traffic tickets will take longer, right now it can take as long as nine months to contest a citation and the delay is growing. If you happen to win your case, the wait for your refunded fees and fine will be quite lengthy.

Court hours will probably vary from county to county and all of the state’s 58 counties will be affected. The Los Angeles County Superior Court, the largest trial court in the state, is also feeling the effects of these dramatic cutbacks with a vast layoff of employees and more positions left unfilled.

If you have tried to call just about any of the courts to get information on a traffic ticket or a court date and not been able to reach anyone, well, there you have it… you too have been “touched” by the budget deficit.

This brings us to the original question. If through no fault of your own except for the fact that you choose to live in California, your constitutional right to a speedy trial is negated… can you “demand” that your traffic ticket be dismissed on constitutional grounds? Don’t hold your breath just yet, there’s always an obscure governmental loophole somewhere lurking nearby. I will find out and let you know as soon as I know. OK, deep breath… holding… one, two…