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.
Prosecutors are under no duty to file charges as soon as probable cause exists but before they are satisfied that they will be able to establish a suspect's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether prejudice to the defendant, alone, is enough to dismiss a case for lack of a speedy trial.
Held. 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.
Discussion. While there is a constitutional right to a speedy trial, the government should also be afforded the right to fully develop its case.