A teenager who is not a citizen of the United States is charged with a criminal offense.

Does the teenager have the right to a speedy trial? If yes, at what point in time is the trial late and no longer speedy?

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    – feetwet
    Commented Jan 10 at 17:49

2 Answers 2


The right to a speedy trial is secured by the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

All people within the jurisdiction of the United States may exercise this right. See e.g. Wong Wing v. United States, 163 U.S. 228 (1896) ("Applying this reasoning to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, it must be concluded that all persons within the territory of the United States are entitled to the protection guaranteed by those amendments"); and U.S. v. Koch, Criminal No. 03-144 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 25, 2011):

Numerous courts have held that a foreign national may raise his or her Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and, if successful, is entitled to have the indictment dismissed.

(Koch was indicted in 2003, but was essentially a fugitive in Germany. In 2011, he asked that his case be dismissed because the government had made apparently no effort to secure his presence in the United States, thereby violating his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The judge found that Koch did not benefit from this right while afar in another country. If he wanted this to be over, he had to appear in the U.S. and demand that a court get on with his proceedings.)

Ohwilleke adds to this answer by explaining the substantive extent of this right.

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    It's worthwhile to note that the Koch court denied Koch's sixth amendment claim because he was not in within the jurisdiction of the United States.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 10 at 8:38
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    May not apply to foreign terrorists held in military custody abroad. Commented Jan 10 at 15:08

Jen has a solid answer to the first part of the question. I will answer the second part.

If yes, at what point in time is the trial late and no longer speedy?

The U.S. Constitution does not specify exactly what constitutes "speedy", which is up to each jurisdiction to define, and can be influenced by extraordinary events like COVID. The constitutional rule is analyzed on a case by case basis with deference given to any definition supplied by the jurisdiction in question.

But, in Colorado (which is typical), the default standard for a speedy trial is six months after the defendants is arrested, or if earlier, after criminal case is commenced. In contrast:

The Florida speedy trial rule provides that once a person has been arrested, they must be brought to trial within 175 days of their arrest if charged with a felony or within 90 days of their arrest if charged with a misdemeanor.

It is commonplace, however, for defendants to waive their right to a speedy trial, especially if they are free on bail or are likely to be convicted if tried, since delay often favors the defendant.

Note that the right to a speedy trial should not be confused with a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations begins when the crime is committed and is met when a criminal case is commenced. The right to a speedy trial time period starts counting when a criminal case is commenced or someone is arrested, and is satisfied when there is a trial.


A Colorado Court Of Appeals case decided today, People in Interest of CMWR, 2024 COA 4 (January 11, 2024), holds, as a matter of first impression, that in Colorado, the statutory speedy trial protections applicable to adults in a criminal cases are equally applicable to juveniles who are charged with quasi-criminal juvenile delinquency offenses in the juvenile justice system.

As noted in Jen's answer, speedy trial protections in the United States, do not depend upon the nationality or citizenship of the defendant.

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