The Supreme Court says the time used to deal with pretrial motions cannot be used to automatically extend the required deadline for a suspect's speedy trial.
The high court on Thursday refused to grant the government's request to reinstate Jason Louis Tinklenberg's conviction of gun possession by a felon and possession of material used to manufacture methamphetamine.
The Speedy Trial Act says a defendant's trial should begin within 70 days of his indictment or his initial appearance before a judicial officer.
The high court ruled that the time used to dispense with pretrial motions cannot be counted toward the Speedy Trial deadline, upholding the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to throw out Tinklenberg's conviction.
The appeals court had said that pretrial motions count as an exception when they cause actual delays. But "the filing of a pretrial motion falls within this provision irrespective of whether it actually causes, or is expected to cause, delay in starting a trial," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the opinion for the court.
He was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined the decision only in part.