Barker v. Wingo – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972), the court identified four factors to be assessed in determining whether an accused had been constitutionally denied a speedy trial:

(1) the length of the delay;

(2) the reason for the delay;

(3) the defendant's assertion of his right to a speedy trial, and;

(4) the prejudice to the defendant. Barker, 407 U.S. at 530.

Even though no single factor controlled, the court in Barker stated that the length of the delay is particularly important.

"The length of the delay is to some extent a triggering mechanism.

Until there is some delay which is presumptively prejudicial, there is no necessity for inquiry into the other factors that go into the balance.

Nevertheless, because of the imprecision of the right to speedy trial, the length of delay that will provoke such an inquiry is necessarily dependent upon the peculiar circumstances of the case." Id. at 530-531.

The United States Supreme Court analyzed the right to a speedy trial guaranteed to the accused by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and explained the criteria by which the speedy trial right is to be judged. The Supreme Court rejected bright-line tests, stating it found "no constitutional basis for holding that the speedy trial right can be quantified into a specified number of days or months." (Id. at p. 523.)

The Supreme Court announced a "balancing test, in which the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant are weighed." (Id. at p. 530.)

This test "compels courts to approach speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis" balancing four factors: (1) length of delay, (2) the reason for the delay, (3) the defendant's assertion of his right, and (4) prejudice to the defendant. (Ibid.) No one of those factors is a necessary or sufficient condition to finding a due process violation. (Id. at p. 533.) "Rather, they are related factors and must be considered together with such other circumstances as may be relevant." (Ibid.) The United States Supreme Court established a balancing test for courts to apply when determining speedy trial claims.

The Barker test requires speedy trial claims to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with the following factors: "(1) the length of delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) the defendant's assertion of the right to a speedy trial, and; (4) prejudice to the defendant." Id. at 407 U.S. at 530.

No single factor is dispositive, and all factors should be weighed together, keeping in mind the particular circumstances of the case. Middlebrook v. State, 802 A.2d 268, 273 (Del. 2002) (citing Barker, 407 U.S. at 533).

The Supreme Court identified four factors which are to be considered in determining whether a defendant's federal speedy trial right has been violated: "Length of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant." (Id. at p. 530.) The Supreme Court cautioned, however, that "these factors have no talismanic qualities; courts must still engage in a difficult and sensitive balancing process." (Id. at p. 533.) Nor are the factors exclusive; they are to be considered "together with such other circumstances as may be relevant." (Ibid.)

Under Barker v. Wingo, courts must analyze federal constitutional speedy trial claims by first weighing the strength of each of the above factors and then balancing their relative weights in light of "the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant." None of the four factors is "either a necessary or sufficient condition to the finding of a deprivation of the right of speedy trial."

Instead, they are related factors, which must be considered together along with any other relevant circumstances.

No one factor possesses "talismanic qualities," thus courts must "engage in a difficult and sensitive balancing process" in each individual case.

In Barker, the Court added that, "even if an accused is not incarcerated prior to trial, he is still disadvantaged by restraints on his liberty and by living under a cloud of anxiety, suspicion, and often hostility."

Appellant testified-in Spanish - that he lost $ 120 per day that he did not work.

When appellant testified, he had missed at least eleven days of work due to court appearances.

That is a minimum of $ 1,320 worth of personal prejudice to a day laborer.