The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial does not extend to the sentencing phase of a criminal proceeding. Here, attorneys tell Law360 why the Betterman v. Montana decision is significant.
Carolyn McNiven, Greenberg Traurig LLP
"Delays between an individual’s criminal conviction and their sentence can be lengthy. The Supreme Court ruled today in Betterman v. Montana that the Speedy Trial Clause does not protect defendants from unreasonable delays between conviction and the imposition of a sentence. Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg’s opinion for the court relied on the historical framework around which the Speedy Trial Clause was drawn to provide support for the proposition that the aim of the clause was to protect the presumptively innocent, namely those who had not yet been convicted, and that it was not intended to benefit or protect those convicted of a crime. The court reasoned that 'vacating validly obtained convictions' — the sole remedy available under the Speedy Trial Clause — would be an 'unjustified windfall' for a defendant. The court did not address the impact of delay on the rights of a defendant whose conviction was not validly obtained. In such a circumstance, delay in sentencing translates to delay in the ability to appeal an unlawfully obtained conviction. Although it closed the door on speedy trial right actions, the court made clear that defendants who experience unreasonable post-conviction delays do have another remedy: a constitutional challenge under the Due Process Clause."