In October 2016, a lower court granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges filed against him in July 1990 based on a violation of Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 (prompt trial). On appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the Commonwealth argued that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The appeals court agreed and remanded, finding the defendant could not avail himself of the protections of the speedy trial rule if he himself was responsible for the delay.
The defendant was charged with DUI and reckless driving in 1990. Soon afterward, a preliminary hearing was held, and the defendant was arraigned. In November 1990, the defendant failed to appear at court, and the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. In the intervening 26 years, the defendant was arrested and incarcerated multiple times in various jurisdictions and resided at the same address for at least the first nine of these years. Sometime in the fall of 2016, the defendant received a mailing from the Sheriff’s office indicating that a bench warrant existed for his arrest and that he should turn himself in. He turned himself in in October 2016. The bench warrant was lifted, and a pretrial conference was scheduled.Soon afterward, the defendant filed an Omnibus Pretrial Motion, alleging that his rights under Rule 600 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure were violated and that the charges should be dismissed. He further argued that the breathalyzer test results should be suppressed as a result of a failure to comply with the appropriate regulations pertaining to breath testing. At the conclusion of a hearing, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 600. The Commonwealth appealed.
Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 was designed to protect a defendant’s speedy trial rights, as well as society’s right to effective prosecution of criminal cases. The rule mandates that a defendant must be tried on criminal charges no later than 365 days after the criminal complaint is filed. However, periods of delay caused by a defendant are excluded from the computation of the length of time of any pretrial incarceration.