Length of the trial

Your case must be examined within a reasonable time. It is important to avoid an overly long period of uncertainty in your legal status and to maintain trust in the work of the courts. If you are arrested on remand during the trial, your case must be examined with extra care and must not be delayed.

What is a reasonable length?

What is a reasonable length for a trial depends on the circumstances of each case. The following must be taken into account to determine whether the Court (or the State in general) can be blamed for taking too long to deal with your case:

  • the complexity of your case
  • your own behaviour and the actions of the other party 
  • the conduct of the court and state authorities
  • what is at stake in the case

example Where the charged person in a shoplifting case cooperates, it would not be reasonable for the investigation to take a couple of years.  However, a complex drug trafficking case involving multiple participants who are actively using their rights to appeal various procedural decisions, could reasonably take several years to examine. 

The length of your trial should be measured taking into account all stages of the proceedings. This includes the court of first instance and also the court of appeal and cassation if these are used in your case. Therefore, unless the length of the trial is already clearly and obviously unreasonable during the proceedings, the hearings in all instances must be finished before the assessment about whether the proceedings have taken too long is made.  

Usually long periods of time with no activity in the case are not permissible.

Court’s responsibility

Normally the court cannot be blamed for your behaviour or the other party’s actions, such as the failure to attend court sessions or the use of so-called delay tactics (the filing of various requests for no good reason). However, if only one party is delaying the proceedings, the court must use its powers to ensure that the trial moves on effectively. 

The frequent changing of judges or their excessive workload also must not be used as an excuse for excessive delays in your case.

How to complain

The chief justice of the court is responsible for the timely examination of the cases in his or her court. If you believe that your case is being handled carelessly and risks exceeding reasonable time limits, you may file an application to the chief justice of that court. 

If the length of your trial has been unreasonable and you are convicted at the end of it, the court can reduce your sentence because of such a violation. If you believe that your trial has been unreasonably long, you may ask the court to take this into consideration at the end of the trial.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education