Why Does the Criminal Justice System Move So Sloooooow??

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  • February 1, 2016

Why Does the Criminal Justice System Move So Sloooooow??

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” – Joyce Meyer

There are lots of reasons the criminal justice system is slow.  Here are a few:

  1. Sheer volume.  There are many, many cases in the system, some older than yours and some newer than yours.  Yours is not the only case in the system.
  2. Limited personnel.  There are only a few judges and a few prosecutors responsible for handling hundreds, if not thousands of cases.
  3. Procedural rules.  The law allows parties to file in the Clerk’s office things called motions, which are documents that ask the judge to do something, like exclude certain evidence from trial.  The law gives the opposing party a certain number of days to file a response.  Some motions require a hearing, which is a court proceeding sort of like a trial, when witnesses testify and documents are presented.  There may be a period of weeks or months between the filing date and the hearing date.
  4. Limited time.  There are only so many hours in a day.
  5. Important issues.  Criminal matters involve complex issues of law that require lawyers to spend significant amounts of time reading, understanding, and synthesizing.
  6. Continuances.  Cases are continued (postponed) routinely for a variety of reasons.  Lawyers sometimes have scheduling conflicts that require their appearance in other courts.  Prosecutors get sick.  Judges get sick.  Lawyers need additional time to respond to a motion.  Clients need a psychiatric evaluation.  Clients enroll in inpatient drug treatment programs.  And so on.
  7. Discovery.  The discovery period is the time between arraignment and trial when (usually) both parties seek to discover what the other side knows about the case.

In one local court, the time between the arraignment date and the trial date can be anywhere from six (6) to nine (9) months or even longer, depending on the complexity of the case, the number of pretrial matters that must be addressed, and other factors like the ones listed above.