The Supreme Court says the time courts spend dealing with pretrial motions automatically increases the time the government is allowed before bringing a suspect to trial.
Despite that, 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 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the pretrial motion days did count because they did not delay the eventual trial.
But the high court ruled that all time used to dispense with pretrial motions do not count toward the Speedy Trial deadline. "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.
But the appeals court made other mistakes in its decision that favored Tinklenberg, which led to Breyer and the high court to throw out Tinklenberg's conviction.
Tinklenburg has already served his full sentence.
Breyer was joined in his judgment 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.
Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the decision because she worked on it while serving as solicitor general.
The case is United States v. Tinklenberg, 09-1498.