Justice Souter, delivered the opinion of the Court.
In this case we consider whether the delay of 8-12 years between petitioner's indictment and arrest violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. We hold that it did.
On February 22, 1980, petitioner Marc Doggett was indicted for conspiring with several others to import and distribute cocaine. See 84 Stat. 1265, 1291, as amended, 21 U. S. C. §§ 846, 963. Douglas Driver, the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA's) principal agent investigating the conspiracy, told the United States Marshal's Service that the DEA would oversee the apprehension of Doggett and his Confederates. On March 18, 1980, two police officers set out
To catch Doggett on his return to the United States, Driver sent word of his outstanding arrest warrant to all United States Customs stations and to a number of law enforcement organizations. He also placed Doggett's name in the Treasury Enforcement Communication System (TECS), a computer network that helps Customs agents screen people entering the country, and in the National Crime Information Center computer system, which serves similar ends. The TECS entry expired that September, however, and Doggett's name vanished from the system.
In September 1981, Driver found out that Doggett was under arrest on drug charges in Panama and, thinking that a formal extradition request would be futile, simply asked Panama to "expel" Doggett to the United States. Although the Panamanian authorities promised to comply when their own proceedings had run their course, they freed Doggett the following July and let him go to Colombia, where he stayed with an aunt for several months. On September 25, 1982, he passed unhindered through Customs in New York City and settled down in Virginia. Since his return to the United States, he has married, earned a college degree, found a steady job as a computer operations manager, lived openly under his own name, and stayed within the law. Doggett's travels abroad had not wholly escaped the Government's notice, however. In 1982, the American Embassy in Panama told the State Department of his departure to Colombia, but that information, for whatever reason, eluded the DEA, and Agent Driver assumed for several years that his quarry was still serving time in a Panamanian prison. Driver never asked DEA officials in Panama to check into Doggett's status, and only after his own fortuitous assignment to that country in 1985 did he discover Doggett's departure
A split panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed. 906 F.2d 573 (CA11 1990). Following Circuit precedent, see Ringstaff v. Howard, 885 F.2d 1542 (CA11 1989) (en banc), the court ruled that Doggett could prevail only by proving "actual prejudice" or by establishing that "the first three Barker factors weigh[ed] heavily in his favor." 906 F. 2d, at 582. The majority agreed with the Magistrate that Doggett had not shown actual prejudice, and, attributing the Government's delay to "negligence" rather than "bad faith," id., at 578-579, it concluded that Barker `s first three factors did not weigh so heavily against the Government as to make proof of specific prejudice unnecessary. Judge Clark dissented, arguing, among other things, that the majority had placed undue emphasis on Doggett's inability to prove actual prejudice.
We granted Doggett's petition for certiorari, 498 U.S. 1119 (1991), and now reverse.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees that, "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy. . . trial . . . ." On its face, the Speedy Trial Clause is written with such breadth that, taken literally, it would forbid the government to delay the trial of an "accused" for any reason at all. Our cases, however, have qualified the literal sweep of the provision by specifically recognizing the relevance of four separate enquiries: whether delay before trial was uncommonly long, whether the government or the criminal defendant is more to blame for that delay, whether, in due course, the defendant asserted his right to a speedy trial, and whether he suffered prejudice as the delay's result. See Barker, supra, at 530.
The first of these is actually a double enquiry. Simply to trigger a speedy trial analysis, an accused must allege that the interval between accusation and trial has crossed the
As for Barker's second criterion, the Government claims to have sought Doggett with diligence. The findings of the courts below are to the contrary, However, and we review trial court determinations of negligence with considerable deference. See Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 402 (1990); McAllister v. United States, 348 U.S. 19, 20-22 (1954); 9 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2590 (1971). The Government gives us nothing to gainsay the findings that have come up to us, and we see nothing fatal to them in the record. For six years, the Government's investigators made no serious effort to test their progressively more questionable assumption that Doggett
The Government goes against the record again in suggesting that Doggett knew of his indictment years before he was arrested. Were this true, Barker's third factor, concerning invocation of the right to a speedy trial, would be weighed heavily against him. But here again, the Government is trying to revisit the facts. At the hearing on Doggett's speedy trial motion, it introduced no evidence challenging the testimony of Doggett's wife, who said that she did not know of the charges until his arrest, and of his mother, who claimed not to have told him or anyone else that the police had come looking for him. From this the Magistrate implicitly concluded, Magistrate's Report, reprinted at App. to Pet. for Cert. 42-44, and the Court of Appeals expressly reaffirmed, 906 F. 2d, at 579-580, that Doggett had won the evidentiary battle on this point. Not only that, but in the factual basis supporting Doggett's guilty plea, the Government explicitly conceded that it had
"no information that Doggett was aware of the indictment before he left the United States in March 1980, or prior to his arrest. His mother testified at the suppression hearing that she never told him, and Barnes and Riddle [Doggett's confederates] state they did not have contact with him after their arrest [in 1980]." 2 Record, Exh. 63, p. 2.
While one of the Government's lawyers later expressed amazement that "that particular stipulation is in the factual basis," Tr. 13 (Mar. 31, 1989), he could not make it go away, and the trial and appellate courts were entitled to accept the defense's unrebutted and largely substantiated claim of
The Government is left, then, with its principal contention: that Doggett fails to make out a successful speedy trial claim because he has not shown precisely how he was prejudiced by the delay between his indictment and trial.
We have observed in prior cases that unreasonable delay between formal accusation and trial threatens to produce more than one sort of harm, including "oppressive pretrial incarceration," "anxiety and concern of the accused," and "the possibility that the [accused's] defense will be impaired" by dimming memories and loss of exculpatory evidence.
Barker, 407 U. S., at 532; see also Smith v. Hooey, 393 U.S. 374, 377-379 (1969); United States v. Ewell, 383 U.S. 116, 120 (1966). Of these forms of prejudice, "the most serious is the last, because the inability of a defendant adequately to prepare his case skews the fairness of the entire system." 407 U. S., at 532. Doggett claims this kind of prejudice, and there is probably no other kind that he can claim, since he was subjected neither to pretrial detention nor, he has successfully contended, to awareness of unresolved charges against him.
The Government answers Doggett's claim by citing language in three cases, United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 320-323 (1971), United States v. MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 8 (1982), and United States v. Loud Hawk, 474 U.S. 302, 312 (1986), for the proposition that the Speedy Trial Clause does not significantly protect a criminal defendant's interest in fair adjudication. In so arguing, the Government asks us, in effect, to read part of Barker right out of the law, and that we will not do. In context, the cited passages support nothing beyond the principle, which we have independently
As an alternative to limiting Barker, the Government claims Doggett has failed to make any affirmative showing that the delay weakened his ability to raise specific defenses, elicit specific testimony, or produce specific items of evidence. Though Doggett did indeed come up short in this respect, THE Government's argument takes it only so far: consideration of prejudice is not limited to the specifically demonstrable, and, as it concedes, Brief for United States 28, n. 21; Tr. of Oral Arg. 28-34 (Feb. 24, 1992), affirmative proof of particularized prejudice is not essential to every speedy trial claim. See Moore, supra, at 26; Barker, supra, at 533. Barker explicitly recognized that impairment of one's defense is the most difficult form of speedy trial prejudice to prove because time's erosion of exculpatory evidence and testimony "can rarely be shown." 407 U. S., at 532. And though time can tilt the case against either side, SEE id., at 521; Loud Hawk, supra, at 315, one cannot generally be sure which of them it has prejudiced more severely. Thus, we generally have to recognize that excessive delay presumptively compromises the reliability of a trial in ways that neither party can prove or, for that matter, identify. While
This brings us to an enquiry into the role that presumptive prejudice should play in the disposition of Doggett's speedy trial claim. We begin with hypothetical and somewhat easier cases and work our way to this one.
Our speedy trial standards recognize that pretrial delay is often both inevitable and wholly justifiable. The government may need time to collect witnesses against the accused, oppose his pretrial motions, or, if he goes into hiding, track him down. We attach great weight to such considerations when balancing them against the costs of going forward with a trial whose probative accuracy the passage of time has begun by degrees to throw into question. See Loud Hawk, supra, at 315-317. Thus, in this case, if the Government had pursued Doggett with reasonable diligence from his indictment to his arrest, his speedy trial claim would fail. Indeed, that conclusion would generally follow as a matter of course however great the delay, so long as Doggett could not show specific prejudice to his defense.
The Government concedes, on the other hand, that Doggett would prevail if he could show that the Government had intentionally held back in its prosecution of him to gain some impermissible advantage at trial. See Brief for United States 28, n. 21; Tr. of Oral Arg. 28-34 (Feb. 24, 1992). That we cannot doubt. Barker stressed that official bad faith in causing delay will be weighed heavily against the government, 407 U. S., at 531, and a bad-faith delay the length of this negligent one would present an overwhelming case for dismissal.
Between diligent prosecution and bad-faith delay, official negligence in bringing an accused to trial occupies the middle
Barker made it clear that "different weights [are to be] assigned to different reasons" for delay. Ibid. Although negligence is obviously to be weighed more lightly than a deliberate intent to harm the accused's defense, it still falls on the wrong side of the divide between acceptable and unacceptable reasons for delaying a criminal prosecution once it has begun. And such is the nature of the prejudice presumed that the weight we assign to official negligence compounds over time as the presumption of evidentiary prejudice grows. Thus, our toleration of such negligence varies inversely with its protractedness, Cf. Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988), and its consequent threat to the fairness of the accused's trial. Condoning prolonged and unjustifiable delays in prosecution would both penalize many defendants for the state's fault and simply encourage the government to gamble with the interests of criminal suspects assigned a low prosecutorial priority. The Government, indeed, can hardly complain too loudly, for persistent neglect in concluding a criminal prosecution indicates an uncommonly feeble interest in bringing an accused to justice; the more weight the Government attaches to securing a conviction, the harder it will try to get it.
To be sure, to warrant granting relief, negligence unaccompanied by particularized trial prejudice must have lasted longer than negligence demonstrably causing such prejudice. But even so, the Government's egregious persistence in failing to prosecute Doggett is clearly sufficient. The lag between Doggett's indictment and arrest was 8-12 years, and he would have faced trial 6 years earlier than he did but for the Government's inexcusable oversights. The portion of the
We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Justice O'Connor, dissenting.
I believe the Court of Appeals properly balanced the considerations set forth in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972). Although the delay between indictment and trial was lengthy, petitioner did not suffer any anxiety or restriction on his liberty. The only harm to petitioner from the lapse
Justice Thomas, with whom The Chief Justice and Justice Scalia join, dissenting.
Just as "bad facts make bad law," so too odd facts make odd law. Doggett's 8-12-year odyssey from youthful drug dealing in the tobacco country of North Carolina, through stints in a Panamanian jail and in Colombia, to life as a computer operations manager, homeowner, and registered voter in suburban Virginia is extraordinary. But even more extraordinary is the Court's conclusion that the Government denied Doggett his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial despite the fact that he has suffered none of the harms that the right was designed to prevent. I respectfully dissent.
We have long identified the "major evils" against which the Speedy Trial Clause is directed as "undue and oppressive incarceration" and the "anxiety and concern accompanying public accusation." United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 320 (1971). The Court does not, and cannot, seriously dispute that those two concerns lie at the heart of the Clause, and that neither concern is implicated here. Doggett was
Thus, this unusual case presents the question whether, independent of these core concerns, the Speedy Trial Clause protects an accused from two additional harms: (1) prejudice to his ability to defend himself caused by the passage of time; and (2) disruption of his life years after the alleged commission of his crime. The Court today proclaims that the first of these additional harms is indeed an independent concern of the Clause, and on that basis compels reversal of Doggett's conviction and outright dismissal of the indictment against him. As to the second of these harms, the Court remains mum—despite the fact that we requested supplemental briefing on this very point.
I disagree with the Court's analysis. In my view, the Sixth Amendment's speedy trial guarantee does not provide independent protection against either prejudice to an accused's defense or the disruption of his life. I shall consider each in turn.
As we have explained, "the Speedy Trial Clause's core concern is impairment of liberty. " United States v. Loud Hawk, 474 U.S. 302, 312 (1986) (emphasis added). Whenever a criminal trial takes place long after the events at issue, the defendant may be prejudiced in any number of ways. But "[t]he Speedy Trial Clause does not purport to
A lengthy pretrial delay, of course, may prejudice an accused's ability to defend himself. But, we have explained, prejudice to the defense is not the sort of impairment of liberty against which the Clause is directed. "Passage of time, whether before or after arrest, may impair memories, cause evidence to be lost, deprive the defendant of witnesses, and otherwise interfere with his ability to defend himself. But this possibility of prejudice at trial is not itself sufficient reason to wrench the Sixth Amendment from its proper context." Marion, supra, at 321-322 (footnote omitted; emphasis added). Even though a defendant may be prejudiced by a pretrial delay, and even though the government may be unable to provide a valid justification for that delay, the Clause does not come into play unless the delay impairs the defendant's liberty. "Inordinate delay . . . may impair a defendant's ability to present an effective defense. But the major evils protected against by the speedy trial guarantee exist quite apart from actual or possible prejudice to an accused's defense." 404 U. S., at 320 (emphasis added).
These explanations notwithstanding, we have on occasion identified the prevention of prejudice to the defense as an independent and fundamental objective of the Speedy Trial
We are thus confronted with two conflicting lines of authority, the one declaring that "limit[ing] the possibility that the defense will be impaired" is an independent and fundamental objective of the Speedy Trial Clause, e. g., Barker, supra, at 532, and the other declaring that it is not, e. g., Marion, 404 U.S. 307 (1971); MacDonald, supra; Loud Hawk, supra. The Court refuses to acknowledge this conflict. Instead, it simply reiterates the relevant language from Barker and asserts that Marion, MacDonald, and Loud Hawk "support nothing beyond the principle . . . that the Sixth Amendment right of the accused to a speedy trial has no application beyond the confines of a formal criminal prosecution." Ante, at 654-655. That attempt at reconciliation is eminently unpersuasive.
It is true, of course, that the Speedy Trial Clause by its terms applies only to an "accused"; the right does not attach before indictment or arrest. See Marion, supra, at 313-315, 320-322; Dillingham v. United States, 423 U.S. 64, 64-65 (1975) (per curiam). But that limitation on the Clause's protection only confirms that preventing prejudice to the defense is not one of its independent and fundamental objectives. For prejudice to the defense stems from the interval between crime and trial, which is quite distinct from the interval between accusation and trial. If the Clause were indeed
Although being an "accused" is necessary to trigger the Clause's protection, it is not sufficient to do so. The touchstone of the speedy trial right, after all, is the substantial deprivation of liberty that typically accompanies an "accusation," not the accusation itself. That explains why a person who has been arrested but not indicted is entitled to the protection of the Clause, see Dillingham, supra, even though technically he has not been "accused" at all.
In my view, the choice presented is not a hard one. Barker's suggestion that preventing prejudice to the defense is a fundamental and independent objective of the Clause is plainly dictum. Never, until today, have we confronted a case where a defendant subjected to a lengthy delay after indictment nonetheless failed to suffer any substantial impairment of his liberty. I think it fair to say that Barker simply did not contemplate such an unusual situation. Moreover, to the extent that the Barker dictum purports to elevate considerations of prejudice to the defense to fundamental and independent status under the Clause, it cannot be
Just because the Speedy Trial Clause does not independently protect against prejudice to the defense does not, of course, mean that a defendant is utterly unprotected in this regard. To the contrary, "`the applicable statute of limitations . . . is . . . the primary guarantee against bringing overly stale criminal charges,'" Marion, 404 U. S., at 322 (quoting Ewell, 383 U. S., at 122). These statutes "represent legislative assessments of relative interests of the State and the defendant in administering and receiving justice; they `are made for the repose of society and the protection of those who may [during the limitation] .. . have lost their means of defence.'" 404 U. S., at 322 (quoting Public Schools v. Walker, 9 Wall. 282, 288 (1870)). Because such statutes are fixed by the legislature and not decreed by
Furthermore, the Due Process Clause always protects defendants against fundamentally unfair treatment by the government in criminal proceedings. See United States v. Lovasco, 431 U.S. 783 (1977). As we explained in Marion, "the Due Process Clause . . . would require dismissal of [an] indictment if it were shown at trial that [A] delay . . . caused substantial prejudice to [a defendant's] rights to a fair trial and that the delay was an intentional device to gain tactical advantage over the accused." 404 U. S., at 324. See also MacDonald, 456 U. S., at 8 ("The Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial is . . . not primarily intended to prevent prejudice to the defense caused by passage of time; that interest is protected primarily by the Due Process Clause and by statutes of limitations").
It remains to be considered, however, whether Doggett is entitled to relief under the Speedy Trial Clause because of the disruption of his life years after the criminal events at issue. In other words, does the Clause protect a right to repose, free from secret or unknown indictments? In my view, it does not, for much the same reasons set forth above.
The common law recognized no right of criminals to repose. "The maxim of our law has always been `Nullum tempus occurrit regi,' [`time does not run against the king'], and as a criminal trial is regarded as an action by the king, it follows that it may be brought at any time." 2 J. Stephen, A History of the Criminal Law of England 1, 2 (1883) (noting examples of delays in prosecution ranging from 14 to 35 years). See also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice
That is not to deny that our legal system has long recognized the value of repose, both to the individual and to society. But that recognition finds expression not in the sweeping commands of the Constitution, or in the common law, but in any number of specific statutes of limitations enacted by the federal and state legislatures. Such statutes not only protect a defendant from prejudice to his defense (as discussed above), but also balance his interest in repose against society's interest in the apprehension and punishment of criminals. Cf. Toussie v. United States, 397 U.S. 112, 114-115 (1970). In general, the graver the offense, the longer the limitations period; indeed, many serious offenses, such as murder, typically carry no limitations period at all. See, e. g., Note, The Statute of Limitations in Criminal Law: A Penetrable Barrier to Prosecution, 102 U. Pa. L. Rev. 630, 652-653 (1954) (comparing state statutes of limitations for various crimes); Uelmen, Making Sense out of the California Criminal Statute of Limitations, 15 Pac. L. J. 35, 76-79 (1983) (same). These statutes refute the notion that our society ever has recognized any general right of criminals to repose. Doggett, however, asks us to hold that a defendant's interest in repose is a value independently protected by the Speedy Trial Clause. He emphasizes that at the time of his arrest he was "leading a normal, productive and law-abiding life," and that his "arrest and prosecution at this late date interrupted his life as a productive member of society and forced him to answer for actions taken in the distant past." Supplemental Brief for Petitioner on Reargument 2. However uplifting this tale of personal redemption, our task is to
There is no basis for concluding that the disruption of an accused's life years after the commission of his alleged crime is an evil independently protected by the Speedy Trial Clause. Such disruption occurs regardless of whether the individual is under indictment during the period of delay. Thus, had Doggett been indicted shortly before his 1988 arrest rather than shortly after his 1980 crime, his repose would have been equally shattered—but he would not have even a colorable speedy trial claim. To recognize a constitutional right to repose is to recognize a right to be tried speedily after the offense. That would, of course, convert the Speedy Trial Clause into a constitutional statute of limitations—a result with no basis in the text or history of the Clause or in our precedents.
Our constitutional law has become ever more complex in recent decades. That is, in itself, a regrettable development, for the law draws force from the clarity of its command and the certainty of its application. As the complexity of legal doctrines increases, moreover, so too does the danger that their foundational principles will become obscured. I fear that danger has been realized here. So engrossed is the Court in applying the multi factor balancing test set forth in Barker that it loses sight of the nature and purpose of the speedy trial guarantee set forth in the Sixth Amendment.
The Court's error, in my view, lies not so much in its particular application of the Barker test to the facts of this case, but more fundamentally in its failure to recognize that the speedy trial guarantee cannot be violated—and thus Barker does not apply at all—when an accused is entirely unaware of a pending indictment against him.
I do not mean to question Barker's approach, but merely its scope. We have long recognized that whether an accused
Ibid. The Arizona Supreme Court denied him speedy trial relief on the ground that "a showing of prejudice to the defense at trial was essential to establish a federal speedy trial claim." Ibid. We rejected that reasoning, emphasizing the contextual nature of the speedy trial analysis set forth in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972).
To hold that a speedy trial claim can succeed without a showing of actual trial prejudice is not, of course, to hold that such a claim can succeed without a showing of any prejudice at all. Moore, like Barker, is clearly premised on the assumption that the defendant invoking the protection of the Speedy Trial Clause has been subjected to the evils against which the Clause was designed to protect. Indeed, Moore makes this assumption quite explicit, observing that prejudice is "`inevitably present in every case to some extent, for every defendant will either be incarcerated pending trial or on bail subject to substantial restrictions on his liberty.'" Moore, supra, at 27 (quoting Barker, supra, at 537 (White, J., concurring)) (emphasis added). While accurate in the vast majority of cases, that observation is not inevitably true—as this case shows.
Not surprisingly, the Court seizes on this concession with relish. See ante, at 655, 656 (citing Brief for United States 28, n. 21, Tr. of Oral Arg. 28-34 (Feb. 24, 1992)). For if defendants can bring successful speedy trial claims even though they have not been "incarcerated or subjected to other substantial restrictions on their liberty," United States v. Loud Hawk, 474 U.S. 302, 312 (1986), then the Clause's protections necessarily extend beyond those core concerns. If the Clause does not protect a defendant whose liberty has not been impaired by a delay, then it simply does not protect him; its protections cannot be triggered solely by the government's bad motives. The Speedy Trial Clause provides no basis for the line the United States advances between negligent governmental conduct, on the one hand, and bad-faith conduct, on the other. As noted in text, the Due Process Clause is the proper recourse for an accused whose defense is materially prejudiced by bad-faith governmental behavior. See United States v. Lovasco, 431 U.S. 783 (1977); cf. Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988).
The Court, thus, is certainly entitled to decide this particular case adversely to the United States on the ground that the concession undercut the Government's entire argument. But the Court goes much further.
It affirmatively endorses the point conceded, thereby embedding in the law the mischievous notion that a defendant is entitled to the protection of the Speedy Trial Clause even though he has suffered none of the harms against which the Clause protects, as long as the government's conduct is sufficiently culpable. I would disregard the concession, for much the same reasons that we sometimes consider an argument that a litigant has waived. See, e. g., Arcadia v. Ohio Power Co., 498 U.S. 73, 77 (1990); Kamen v. Kemper Financial Services, Inc., 500 U.S. 90, 99-100 (1991); United States v. Burke, 504 U.S. 229, 246 (1992) (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment). I see little sense in elevating an unwise concession into unwise law.