Right to a speedy trial does not apply to sentencing hearings

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial . . . .”  Does this right apply to sentencing hearings?  No, per a unanimous decision by the United States Supreme Court.

In Betterman v. Montana, 136 S. Ct. 1609 (2016), the Supreme Court determined that the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial did not apply to sentencing hearings.  In Betterman, the defendant was jailed for over 14 months awaiting sentence on domestic assault charges.  Eventually, the defendant was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, four of which was suspended.  Afterward, the defendant appealed, arguing that the 14-month gap between conviction and sentencing violated his speedy trial right.  However, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence, determining that the right to a speedy trial did not apply to presentence delay.

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the Montana high court’s decision, reasoning that, historically, “accused” was a status distinct from “convicted” and “trial” was distinct from judgment (i.e., sentencing).  Thus, based on the language of the Sixth Amendment considered in its historical context, the Court affirmed that the right to a speedy trial did not apply to sentencing hearings.

Given the above, does a defendant have any recourse for extended delays between conviction and sentencing?  Yes.  The Court noted that the Due Process Clause protects against exorbitant delay: “After conviction, a defendant’s due process right to liberty, while diminished, is still present.  He retains an interest in a sentencing proceeding that is fundamentally fair.”  So, did due process help the defendant in this case?  Sadly, no.  The Court expressed no opinion on the issue because the defendant failed to advance a due process claim.  Ouch!

Betterman v. Montana, 136 S. Ct. 1609 (2016)

Post-Conviction Relief Granted Because of Release Eligibility Misinformation

Last year, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed a trial court’s denial of post-conviction relief and allowed the petitioner to withdraw his guilty plea.  Previously, the petitioner’s attorney advised him that he would serve a 15-year sentence at 85% and the trial court told him that his sentences were eligible for an up to fifteen percent reduction.  However, the petitioner’s sentences were actually to be served at 100%, a two year and three month difference.

In determining that counsel was ineffective, the appellate court emphasized the difference between cases where counsel fails to inform the petitioner about release requirements and cases where counsel misinforms the petitioner about such requirements.  Since the petitioner was significantly misinformed about his release eligibility, the court of criminal appeals concluded that his plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered.  Therefore, it reversed the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition and remanded for the petitioner to withdraw his guilty plea.

Davis v. State, No. E2015-00772-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 9, 2016)

Clay County, Tennessee

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Cases:

Clay County defendant’s sentence upheld (Aug. 16, 2017)

 

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Grundy County, Tennessee

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Miscellaneous Posts:

Grundy County school board member arrested for filing a false report that led to school lockdown (Nov. 29, 2017)

Lying to the cops in Grundy County, Tennessee (Nov. 25, 2017)

Drug overdose deaths increase in Tennessee (Oct. 2, 2017)

Grundy County’s Most Wanted (Sept. 17, 2017)

 

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Putnam County, Tennessee

Check out the following posts about Putnam County and Cookeville, Tennessee:

 

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Court Information

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Miscellaneous Posts:

Cookeville mother charged with being the getaway driver for her juvenile sons in Algood Walmart theft (Nov. 19, 2017)

Several recent arrests in Cookeville, TN (Nov. 3, 2017)

Gainesboro man arrested for allegedly having sex in a bathroom at the Putnam County Fair (Aug. 12, 2017)

Putnam County jury convicts Cookeville man of aggravated robbery and burglary (Aug. 11, 2017)

Cookeville man charged with 1st Degree Murder (Aug. 5, 2017)

 

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