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The Better Way to Stop Delay: Analyzing Speedy Sentencing Claims in the Wake of Betterman v. Montana

Posted by on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 in Notes, Volume 72, Volume 72, Number 3.

Sarah R. Grimsdale | 72 Vand. L. Rev. 1031 (2019) |


In Betterman v. Montana, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment’s speedy trial right terminates after a defendant’s conviction. In dicta, the Court suggested that a defendant might pursue a constitutional claim of undue sentencing delay under the Due Process Clause. Lower courts have generally embraced this suggestion. Still, the Betterman Court’s limited holding left certain questions open: What analytical framework is appropriate to address due process claims of delay between conviction and sentencing? And if a court finds that sentencing was unduly delayed, what is the proper relief?

After Betterman, some courts have analyzed postconviction delay using Barker v. Wingo’s four factors: length of delay, reason for delay, defendant’s assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant. Other courts have used United States v. Lovasco’s two-prong test: the defendant must demonstrate that he suffered actual prejudice and the government delayed in bad faith. This Note advocates for adopting the more flexible balancing test established by Barker but argues that Barker‘s traditional remedy for undue delay (dismissal of charges) is inappropriate in the sentencing context. Instead, this Note proposes a default remedy in which a defendant’s sentence is reduced by the amount of delay if a speedy sentencing violation is proven.

Sarah R. Grimsdale