Justices weigh constitutional claim in sentencing delay

AP News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2016 12:35 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is considering whether a delay in imposing a prison sentence violates the Constitution's right to a speedy trial.

The justices are hearing arguments in a case from Montana in which defendant Brandon Betterman waited in jail for 14 months before being sentenced on a bail-jumping charge.

The court seems concerned about sentencing delays especially because so many criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains instead of trials.

Justice Elena Kagan says "most of the action these days takes place" in sentencing.

The court has never before extended the right to a speedy trial to the sentencing phase of a case. Some justices appear to think that sentencing delays would be better handled under the Constitution's due process clause that protects people's rights in the Fourteenth Amendment.