A criminal defendant’s constitutional rights are often an area of vociferous and hotly contested debate. Criminal defendants often face numerous obstacles when accused of committing serious crimes including jury prejudices and biases. Constitutional rights that protect an individual’s right to a fair and speedy jury trial are essential balancing elements. However, post-conviction these rights are at a low point and are subject to attack or curtailment. Unfortunately, in a recent decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found in a unanimous decision that the Sixth Amendment  does not apply post-conviction during the sentencing phase. This decision has the potential to seriously undermine an individual’s right to a speedy trial.

The criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of John J. Zarych can provide aggressive and strategic criminal defense services. They can provide the guidance you need to make important decisions regarding your defense and what you can expect from the process. To schedule a free initial consultation call the firm at (609) 616-4956 today or contact us online.

Betterman Matter Arose Due to Bail Jumping Stemming from Domestic Assault Charges

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Betterman V. Montana arose as a result of Brandon Betterman being ordered to appear in court to answer for domestic assault charges. However, Betterman failed to appear at the proceeding and was charged with the additional offense of bail jumping. Betterman pleaded guilty to the bail jumping charges and was held in jail for 14 months while he awaited sentencing.

The delay between the guilty plea and the sentencing was largely the product of bureaucratic delay. For instance, roughly five months elapsed during the time it took to complete the [resentence report. The trial court also took several months to deny two presentence motions filed by Betterman. In time, Betterman would be sentenced to serve a seven-year prison sentence with four of the seven years as a suspended sentence.

Betterman then argued that the 14-month period that elapsed between his conviction and sentencing violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The Montana Supreme Court rejected this argument. The U.S. Supreme court granted certiorari to hear the matter to resolve a split among the state courts.

Justice Ginsberg’s Majority Opinion Cherry Picks from Originalist and Modern Concepts to Reach its Conclusion

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For those who claim that the late Justice Scalia had little impact on the court’s jurisprudence, Betterman serves as a sharp rebuke. In one aspect of the decision Justice Ginsberg, writing for the majority, finds the language utilized in English law and by the framers particularly instructive regarding whether the right to an expedient trial applies post-conviction.  For English law, Justice Ginsberg and the majority focuses on Sir Edward Coke’s Institutes of the Laws of England’s pronouncement that “the innocent shall not be worn and wasted by long imprisonment, but . . . speedily come to his trial.” Similarly, the court also focuses on the fact that the Sixth Amendment’s speedy trial clause “guarantees ‘the accused’ ‘the right to a speedy . . . trial.’” The Court finds that at the time the term “accused” was distinct from the term and status of “convicted” and the court finds that this holds true to the present day.

However, a number of commentators have noted that the Justice’s recounting of the historical record glosses over a significant amount of modern jurisprudence finding the contrary. For instance, it was discussed in Apprendi v. New Jersey in 2000 that no meaningful distinction between a trial and sentencing hearing existed at the time of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, the court fails to explain why a discrete understanding of these phases of the trial is appropriate when sentencing proceedings are often, in fact, an extension of the trial itself. Furthermore, in the case where a plea bargain is agreed to, the court fails to consider that the sentencing proceeding is the only form of “trial” available or experienced by the criminal defendant.

Facing Criminal Charges in New Jersey? Trust an Atlantic City Criminal Defense Attorney

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision in this matter further erodes the Constitutional safeguards a criminal defendant can rely on post-conviction during the sentencing phase. The aggressive and strategic Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of John J. Zarych understand the law and can fight to protect your rights. To schedule a confidential, free initial consultation call (609) 616-4956 today or contact us online.