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United States V. Lovasco

Citation. United States v. Lovasco, 431 U.S. 783, 97 S. Ct. 2044, 52 L. Ed. 2d 752, 1977)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Respondent, Lovasco, brought this action when he was indicted eighteen (18) months after the offenses of his indictment occurred.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A court must apply a balancing test and consider not only the prejudice to the defendant but also the governmental interests that are being served when there is a delay in indictment.


Between July and August of 1973, it was found that respondent possessed eight firearms, stolen from the United States mail and that he had been dealing in firearms without a license. Respondent was not indicted until March of 1975, and he moved to dismiss due to delay. Both the District Court and the Court of Appeals found that the Respondent offered sufficient evidence that he had been prejudiced by the delay and both refused to consider the government’s contention that it was waiting on additional evidence before bringing indictment.


Whether prejudice to the defendant, alone, is enough to dismiss a case for lack of a speedy trial.


Reversed. By looking at several factors, the Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Marshall, found there to be a balancing test to determine what is “speedy” in the context of the constitutional mandate for a speedy trial-in addition to the prejudice the defendant faces, the following interests of justice must also be considered:
First, the court says that not every delay-caused detriment should abort a criminal prosecution;

Second, compelling a prosecutor to file public charges when he has not fully developed his case would result in more erroneous indictments;

Third, insisting on immediate prosecution once sufficient evidence is developed could cause pressure upon prosecutors to resolve any conflicts in investigation with possibly unwarranted prosecutions; and

Fourth, insisting that charging decisions be quickly made may not give a prosecutor sufficient time to determine who a guilty party is and more individuals may be indicted than less.


While there is a constitutional right to a speedy trial, the government should also be afforded the right to fully develop its ca.

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