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Your right to a speedy trial in a Denver DUI case

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

By John Buckley - May 9, 2016

When people ask what I do or who I am, I can give them many answers.  I’m a husband and father.  I’m a son, brother, and relative to a very large, extended family.  I’m a former paramedic and firefighter.  At this stage in my life, I’m a trial lawyer.  Specifically, I’m a Denver DUI lawyer.  I love what I do.  Specifically, I love going to trial.  I love fighting for the constitution and forcing the government to prove their allegations against my client.  Not everyone who is accused of a crime is guilty of one.  Not everyone who has had two glasses of wine over dinner is under the influence. 

There is a saying…”the wheels of justice turn slowly.”  Boy, do they ever.  From the date of an alleged DUI offense to the conclusion of the case, months will have passed – on an average case.  This is just the process of obtaining the discovery, meeting with the district attorney, trying to get the missing pieces of evidence, and negotiating for a resolution short of trial.  When a case is set for jury trial, that average can very easily be extended quite a bit.  From the day that a DUI defendant says “not guilty” and insists on a jury trial, the prosecution in Colorado has six months in which to bring the case to trial.  If they fail to do so, the case must be dismissed. 

Consider this - roughly 31,000 Colorado DUI arrests are made each year.  That’s almost 85 per day.  Now, not every DUI arrest results in a trial.  However, when you add up DUI defendants along with other misdemeanor crimes, you wind up with quite a few DUI cases and other criminal cases set for trial each and every day in Denver, Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, Adams, and other counties throughout Colorado.  I’ve had cases scheduled for jury trial the past two weeks.  On each day, there were roughly ten cases set for trial in each courtroom of the respective courthouses.  Now on any given trial day, the prosecution has to triage these cases and decide which ones take priority.  Factors they use include the number of previous DUI offenses for a given defendant, the seriousness of any given case (domestic violence or child abuse will likely take priority over a bar fight), whether there are out-of-town witnesses who had to travel, and a multitude of other factors.  The one factor that plays most often is speedy trial.  If a Denver DUI case is on its first trial setting, it likely has 2-3 months left before the speedy trial clock runs out.  That means that many of these DUI trials will get continued AT LEAST once.

As a former paramedic, I was used to seeing an instant result to my work.  As a Denver DUI attorney, I must wait and wait and wait.  My clients must wait as well.  SPEEDY trial.  “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”