Know Your Rights: Speedy Trials

srbnefsiBy Sayid R. Bnefsi

The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution confers certain rights to individuals relating to criminal prosecution. As one facet of the Sixth Amendment, the Speedy Trial Clause guarantees that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial. The initial discrepancy is determining what a speedy trial entails and how it is this right is violated during criminal prosecution. Two cases have shaped the development of the Speedy Trial Clause.

The first Case, and the most salient of the two, is Barker v. Wingo (1972), which set for a test for determining whether or not a violation of the right to a Speedy Trial has occured. The rules are as follows:

  1. Length of time: although no absolute expiration date has been given for when a trial is to occur, it is a jurisprudential principle that delays lasting longer than a year is believed to be ‘prejudiced,’ and as such might unfairly affect both the defense of the accused and the outcome of the case.
  2. Reason for the delay: Delays may not be justified because it is advantageous for the prosecutor, but rather delays must be reasonable — such as the absence of an important witness or other practical issues at hand.
  3. Time, place, and manner restrictions: if the defendant agrees to a delay on that case that it benefits him or her, then there can be no claim of an undue delay or violation of one’s right to a speedy trial.
  4. The degree of the prejudice caused due to a delay: in other words, one must contextually determine whether the delay has really affected the accused in such a way that does actually prejudice their defense or the outcome of the case.

These four factors have significantly shaped the determination of a violation of a Speedy Trial. As a case study, the second Case that has shaped the Speedy Trial Clause is in Doggett v. United States (1992). Over the course of eight and a half years, Doggett was charged with the distribution of illicit drugs (cocaine), but he was coincidentally not arrested due to travel — national and international — and because, as the Court determined, negligence on part of the government. Moreover, he was accidentally discovered to have returned to the United States and subsequently indicted. He appealed on the grounds that his right to a speedy trial was violated, and the Supreme Court agreed. They believed that the Case violated the first and four factors of the test developed in Barker.

All of this information is important because the effect of a violation of this right means a dismissal of both the charge and/or an unfair conviction. Always keep your rights in mind, and do not be hesitant to hold your government accountable for what they are sworn to protect!

Until next time,


UK Women’s Soccer Team Post-Season Report by Intern Ryan McElhose, Beat Reporter for UK Women’s Soccer Team

photo-2My name is Ryan McElhose, college sports reporter for  I am the beat writer for the UK Women’s Soccer Team.  When I’m not carrying my textbooks or wearing a tie for my internship here at the Office of the Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney, I manage the UK Women’s Soccer team.

Kentucky has a spectacular team this year. We are now in the SEC tournament in Orange Beach, Alabama, and our team is “fired up.” Four members of our team have received recognition by the SEC for their outstanding play this season.



Arin Gilliland

ARIN GILLILAND, is a Kentucky-native and a highly respected player nationally.  Arin was awarded “First-Team All SEC” honors as well as being named the “2014 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.” In addition Arin received the first-ever, prestigious  HONDA INSPIRATION AWARD.

Taylor Braun 

TAYLOR BRAUN, goalie. Taylor was named to the  “SEC All-Freshman Team” after setting a program record of 462 minutes without allowing a goal.


CORTNEY RAETZMAN, overcame a season-ending knee injury last year to come back and earn “Second-Team All SEC” honors this season.

Jade Klump

JADE KLEMP, a sophomore, was named to the “Second-Team ALL SEC.” Jade is currently the leading scorer for the women’s team. She has scored eight goals so far this season

All of our Wildcat Women’s Soccer Team members make us proud as they begin their quest for the SEC tourney title. I am honored to be associated with ALL of these superior athletes and people. On November 5th, the Wildcats will take on the Auburn Tigers in a  quarter-final match. Tune in to the SEC Network at 3:30 p.m on November 5th. GO CATS!

Practical Legal Experience Through Prosecutorial Externship

Taylor B

By: Taylor Brown

On October 20 and 21, I had the privilege of working along Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Dan Laren as he tried an assault case in Fayette Circuit Court.  Looking back on those two days in Judge Ishmael’s courtroom, I believe that the experience I gathered working alongside Mr. Laren will be just as valuable to my legal career as anything I have learned in my years of reading cases in law school.

One of the first things Mr. Larson told me when I started this externship was that he would have me up and speaking in court soon after I began.  Mr. Laren reiterated this point the first time I met with him.  October 20 showed how serious both men were about this.

Part of the Commonwealth’s case in the trial focused on the damages sustained by the victim.  In order to present this evidence to the jury, the EMT who first responded to the scene was called to testify.  It was my job to conduct the direct examination of the EMT.

While my Litigation Skills class at UK had somewhat prepared me for this moment, nothing could compare to the actual experience of conducting a direct examination in a trial that had real stakes.  It’s one thing to conduct a direct examination on a fellow student in front of a professor and a handful of classmates; it’s quite another to actually do it in front of a real courtroom.

The experience of actually helping to try a case didn’t just end there.  Mr. Laren treated me as though I was his equal throughout the trial.  I was not a clerk; there to run errands for the senior attorney, rather, I was entrusted with key details of every aspect of the trial.  From preparing for the trial by reviewing Grand Jury testimony, to interviewing witnesses, to helping with jury selection; throughout it all, I was involved.  During the actual trial, not only did I conduct the direct examination mentioned above, I also was called on to give insight at every turn.  From analyzing defense objections at the bench to crafting and refining the Commonwealth’s strategy as the trial progressed, I was treated as an equal partner the entire time.

While the hands-on experience was possibly the greatest learning experience I have had in law school, I also got to learn a great deal from simply observing Mr. Laren, his counterpart for the Defense, and Judge Ishmael – not to mention the jury.  It’s one thing to read about something like a hearsay objection in your Evidence casebook, it’s quite another to see how parties respond when hearsay is brought into the record.

Overall, through this experience, and the other numerous active roles I have been given in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, I have learned a lot of “the stuff they don’t teach you in law school.”  You can learn a lot about a car by reading the owner’s manual, but you can’t learn to drive it until you actually are sitting in the driver’s seat with your hand on the wheel and the key in the ignition.  Law school, thus far, has provided me the manual for the practice of law; the prosecutorial externship has me sitting behind the wheel.

The Danger of Domestic Violence Cases for Police Too


By: Anika Gooch

On October 15th, 2014, I had the opportunity to attend a domestic violence training in Lexington, Kentucky.  The main speaker was the 2012 Family Justice Center Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award winner Mark Wynn.

As a 21-year member of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department and Lieutenant to the Domestic Violence Division, Mark was able to provide valuable insight in regards to the fight against domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a heinous crime that knows no boundaries.  Throughout the past decades, it has claimed the lives of countless women, children and police officers.  Although, I was well aware of the dangers of being a police officer, I had never thought about the possible harm to those who work directly with domestic violence. Responding to domestic violence calls as well as serving protective orders is one of the most dangerous duties of a police officer.

Using the power and control wheel of domestic violence, Mark was able to explain how perpetrators view victims as their personal property.  When police officers threaten the “personal property” of offenders, their lives can often become endangered.  Police officers and victims of domestic violence are much more similar then I had once thought.


Perpetrators use the power and control wheel to assert dominance over their victims as well as the police officers involved in the case.  Seeing a tool used for assessing reasons why victims stay in violent relationships being used in relation to police was very mind opening.

As a future social worker, it was very beneficial to see the fight against domestic violence from a police officer’s perspective.  Since police are the first responders, understanding their point of view can prove very helpful for social workers that become involved with the case.  The collaboration between the organizations and agencies that work to combat domestic violence is essential in order for the battle to be successful.

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to listen to someone speak who has dedicated their entire life and career to combating domestic violence.  I believe that is very important that these types of trainings continued to be offered to agencies that work so closely with this issue.

Driving and Drugging: A Lethal Combination


By: Nikki Fedorko

 The legalization of Marijuana is gaining momentum in the United States and raising many new concerns. Although it is well established that alcohol consumption increases one’s risk for a car crash, toxicology tests are revealing that many impaired drivers are under the influence of marijuana. These lab reports emphasize the fact that drugged driving renders a person less able to perform complex tasks, such as operating a car. Thus, marijuana can play a significant role in fatal car crashes too.

 Delta-9 THC, an active ingredient in marijuana, tends to have a combining effect of a depressant, a mild hallucinogenic, and a psychotropic medicine. This means marijuana can negatively affect one’s cognitive processes.  Some of these processes include distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, and difficulty thinking and problem solving. Furthermore, all of these cognitive processes are necessary during the course of driving a vehicle. So if the brain is impaired due to marijuana use, it is probable that the driver will have poor coordination, lack focus, weave in and out and react to situations slowly.

 Sargent Ron Keaton graciously allowed me to tour the Fayette County police evidence impound lot.  The “evidence impound lot” is essentially a lot that showcases roughly 20 automobiles involved in fatal car crashes and/or drug deals.  About 90% of the cars have extreme cosmetic damage and were labeled “totaled”.  Sgt. Keaton said that almost all of the drivers of the vehicles were driving under the influence of marijuana. At first I found that hard to believe because of what I’ve been told in the past.  I’ve heard many people claim that they can drive better while high in comparison to while drunk. The various media outlets, Public Service Announcements, and educational programs instill in us the dangers of driving drunk.  But, when will the media expose the numerous risks of drugged driving? We need to create a culture where, like drunk driving, drugged driving is not acceptable either.






Crime & Punishment: Plea Bargaining

srbnefsiBy Sayid R. Bnefsi

The Constitution states that all trials, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by Jury (Art 3. Sec 2. Cl. 3). One mistaken impression made by the public is that trials proceed in this manner, but this is not true. Indeed, criminal cases rarely go to trial for practical reasons: it is expensive, time-consuming, and the number of criminal cases is overwhelming. In fact, more than ninety percent of criminal cases are resolved by what is called a ‘plea bargain,’ whereby a prosecutor offers a reduced prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea by the defendant who, in turn, waives their right to a trial by jury.
On the surface, plea bargaining is problematic: justice is not bargained, but judicially determined. Plea bargaining is an incentive for both prosecutors and defendants, as both do not know whether or not a trial would determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The risk of suffering a great prison sentence is intimidating as well, and this risk is usually enough to convince some innocent defendants to plead guilty in case of a mistaken judgment made by his or her peers in a jury trial.
There does not appear to be an easy fix. Some political theorists believe that plea bargaining is just a necessary institution, whereas others believe that this tendency to exchange sentences and minimize risk is avoidable.

As an aspect of criminology, plea bargaining may or may not play an important role in deterring criminals. If plea bargaining reduces sentences that would otherwise convict real criminals, then one can intuit that criminals are less likely to believe that there is more at stake for them by committing a crime. On the other hand, plea bargaining can be construed as a deterrence because there is a limit to when a prosecutor is willing to negotiate a sentence — especially for repeat offenders, such that some criminals might think twice about committing another crime because they were shown ‘legal mercy’ in the first place.

Ultimately, the current nature of the justice system as aggregate and practical must be considered in light of the absolute principles that are also a part of the justice system: procedural fairness, substantive fairness, and a welcomed political or social benefit.

Training Reflection


By: Anika Gooch

Monday September 29th, I attended the Strategies for Effective Investigation and Prosecution of Child Exploitation Offenses.  It was an eye opening experience in terms of both the criminal justice system and social work.  I walked away from the training with a wealth of information from a law enforcement perspective.  I learned that the Sex Offender Registry does not always come with a requirement for lifetime registration.  Information was presented in terms of the laws that create a framework for the prosecution; which cases are eligible for federal prosecution, how to obtain a federal search warrant, what to look for during searches and vast number of online resources and reporting websites.  I had the privilege of listening to FBI agents, the United States Attorney, Kentucky State Police, investigators, and attorneys.  The comradery of all the agencies involved spoke to the magnitude of the desire to eliminate child exploitation.

This training left me wondering how victim advocates can best impact child exploitation cases from the social work perspective. It is critical that advocates work with the prosecution to support the victim throughout the legal process.  It is important that victims of child exploitation receive the services needed to work through the immense trauma they experienced.  It would be extremely beneficial for victims if mental health workers were actively involved in the fight to end child exploitation.  Attorneys and investigators are not adequately trained to deal with the psychological trauma experienced by the victims but victim advocates can refer the victims for appropriate services and provide valuable insight in regards to the victim perspective.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn from this training.  I look forward to other training and educational opportunities I will have while at the Commonwealth Attorney Office.

How People Can Make A Difference In Your Life Along Away
By: Alexis Athanas

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         While working with the communication interns this semester at the Commonwealth Attorney’s office, I have had the pleasure of learning what their lives were like before they came here. I have been captivated by one of our intern’s story, so I sat her down for a quick interview to learn what she was all about. Her name is Alexis Athanas and she is from Atlanta, Georgia. Before coming to Lexington and attending the University of Kentucky, Alexis was traveling all over the country playing lacrosse in various recruiting tournaments trying to get noticed by schools.

            Every weekend in the fall and spring of her junior year of high school, Alexis would get on a plane Friday after school and fly to somewhere in the country to play in a lacrosse tournament or attend a training weekend at a college or university for the weekend. The purpose of these tournament and training weekends was to get noticed by college coaches that the athletes have been emailing to prove their skills on the field. Then, after the weekend was over and the tournament had ended she would hop on a flight back to Atlanta, do her homework or study for tests on the plane, get a couple hours of sleep, and then go to school the next morning. “It was extremely taxing to be gone all the time and have to catch up on school work 24/7. The experiences I was able to be apart of though was what made it all worth it,” says Athanas.

            Alexis told me about many challenges she faced throughout the process of trying to get recruited by a school. Right away she told me what she would forever refer to as “the hard truth”. She explained that the odds were stacked again
st her. There are limited spaces for Division I, Division II, Division III, and club lacrosse women and, on top of that, coming from a nontraditional lacrosse area, like Georgia, makes it even harder to get noticed.

            She raved about a woman named Crista Samaras who is the founder of XTEAM, the club travel team Alexis was apart of. Crista Samaras has been a number of things to Alexis. From a mother when she missed her own to the devil when she made her do countless track workouts and pushed her to her maximum capacity. She helped her beat the odds of coming from a nontraditional lacrosse area and getting offers from every divisional level. She helped her increase her confidence and be more outgoing and try to meet new people. Alexis says “Without a doubt, she motivated her to run harder, think broader, and smile bigger. Crista Samaras has influenced me in millions of ways. I am not saying that without having Crista in my life that I would not have any of these attributes at all, but I don’t think they would be reached to their full capacity.” She helped her dig deep within herself to find these characteristics that define her.

          Alexis concluded the interview by saying that, “Crista and everyone a part of my lacrosse community hastaught and influenced me to laugh louder, fight harder, and risk more through XTEAM and life.”

Crime & Punishment

Criminology and Repeat Offenders

By: Sayid R. Bnefsisrbnefsi

Criminology is the scientific study of criminal behavior, and one reason why criminology is valuable is because it helps us figure out better ways to prevent or manage criminal behavior. Out of the many types of crimes, some are more common than others—think, for instance, of theft and larceny, burglaries, or robberies.

These types of crimes share similar meanings, but there are important distinctions between them. Theft and larceny describes a type of crime involving the intent to permanently deprive an owner of something of value that he or she possesses. On the other hand, burglary involves breaking and entering into a home in order to commit theft and larceny. More precisely, robbery involves an extra element: the person who is being robbed. Crimes like mugging or purse-snatching are considered robberies. These are simple definitions.

Interestingly, one fundamental fact of criminology is that a small proportion of individuals are responsible for a large proportion of crime. According to “Career Criminals in Society,” by Matthew DeLisi at Iowa State University, this fact has scientific foundations:

“More than a century of scientific research has indicated that the majority of crime that occurs in society is committed by a small percentage of the population, meaning that most criminals are repeat offenders, or “career criminals.” If societies devoted considerable resources toward preventing and neutralizing career criminals, there would be dramatic reductions in crime, the fear of crime, and the assorted costs and collateral consequences of crime.”

In the same vein, theft, burglary, and robberies are often committed by repeat offenders because of a lack of legal or rational deterrence. This lack may be a result of unconvincing punishments, or perhaps internal reasons resting within the criminal, whose criminal behavior is neither properly treated nor changed in detention centers or prisons.

In Intelligence-Led Policing (2008), Jerry Ratcliffe suggests that nearly 60 percent of crimes in the United States are committed by 6 percent of the population. Resonating with the past observation that a lot of these crimes must be committed by repeat offenders, criminology would also suggest that targeting repeat offenders would seriously reduce crime. One emerging hypothesis in criminology is targeting such prolific offenders. By targeting prolific offenders, some argues, communities can yield a reduction in crime. This is evidenced by particular case studies outside of the United States—such as Operation Anchorage in Canberra, Australia or Police Tactics in Spokane—which determined that targeting repeat or prolific offenders can significantly prevent and deter such offenses as burglaries.

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