How long does it take for a criminal case to go to trial?

The right to a speedy and public trial is written into the sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but reports of New York City court delays suggest that doesn’t guarantee a criminal defendant will get one.

Today the Daily News highlighted a backlog in the Bronx that leaves accused felons waiting in jail for as long as five years before their case is heard. The average time to resolve a trial in that borough has increased dramatically, from 733 days in 2008 to 988 last year.

In the Daily Q today we ask, how long a wait do defendants face before going to trial in other boroughs?

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What we found

Accused felons in New York City will wait, on average, over two years before their trial is heard in court, according to data provided by the New York State Unified Court System. About one-third are out on bail during that period, but the rest remain behind bars, either not offered bail or unable to pay it.

Defendants in The Bronx have to wait in jail a lot longer than accused felons in other New York counties. Queens and Manhattan defendants were forced to wait about 750 days behind bars. Those indicted in Brooklyn had to wait on average 656 days, and roughly the same length of time in Staten Island.

As a result hundreds of people each year who end up without a conviction are first jailed for long periods of time. Among the more than 4,800 felony cases in the Bronx in 2010, 90 defendants were acquitted and 660 had their cases dismissed. In Brooklyn, with more than 5,300 felony cases, 103 of the accused were acquitted and nearly 500 had their cases dismissed.

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