On May 26, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in United States v. Tinklenberg, No. 09-1498, holding that under the Speedy Trial Act, the time between the filing of a pretrial motion and the disposition of such motion is automatically excluded from the 70-day speedy-trial period, regardless of whether the motion actually causes delay in starting a trial. The Court further held that, in counting periods of delay relating to transportation of a defendant for medical examination, intervening weekends and holidays should be included.
In 2006, 287 days after making his initial appearance before a judicial officer, Jason Tinklenberg was convicted of violating federal drug and gun laws. Just before his trial, Tinklenberg asked the district court to dismiss the indictment against him on the ground that his trial occurred too late, violating the 70-day requirement of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974. The district court denied the motion, finding that 218 of the 287 days fell within various exclusions of the Act, leaving only 69 nonexcludable days. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed that many of the 287 days were excludable, but disagreed that nine days during which three particular pretrial motions were pending were excludable because the motions did not "actually cause a delay, or the expectation of delay, of trial."
The Supreme Court reversed that determination. Section 3161(h)(1)(D) of the Act specifies that "delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion" shall be excluded in computing the time within which a trial must begin. The Court disagreed with the Sixth Circuit's finding that this language requires a delay to result from any pretrial motion before excludable time occurs. Rather, the Court held that, reading the language in the context of the entire Act and in light of the Act's structure and purpose, subparagraph (D) applies automatically.
The Court went on, however, to address Tinklenberg's argument that the Sixth Circuit also misinterpreted subparagraph (F), which in relevant part excludes "delay resulting from transportation of any defendant . . . to and from places of examination . . . except that any time consumed in excess of ten days . . . shall be presumed to be unreasonable." In this case, a total of 20 transportation days elapsed in connection with a competency evaluation of Tinklenberg. In determining how many of those 20 days were not excludable, the district court and the Sixth Circuit excluded 8 weekend days and holidays, believing that subparagraph (F) incorporated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 45(a), which addresses the computation of time. The Court disagreed and found no basis to incorporate Rule 45 into subparagraph (F).
The Court finally concluded that its decision to reverse the Sixth Circuit's interpretations of both subparagraphs (D) and (F) effectively cancelled each other out in this case, so that the Sixth Circuit's ultimate conclusion that Tinklenberg's trial failed to comply with the 70-day requirement of the Act was correct, and the Sixth Circuit's judgment ordering dismissal of the indictment was affirmed.
Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Alito, and Sotomayor joined, and in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas joined in part. Justice Scalia filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas joined. Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.