Articles Posted in Speedy Trial

Published on:

DUI defendants have numerous rights under the state and federal constitutions, including the right to a speedy trial. As demonstrated in a recent case, if the Commonwealth fails to prosecute a case in a timely manner, it can result in a dismissal of all charges. If you are charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, it is prudent to speak with a skillful Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged in January 2017 with DUI, driving with a suspended license and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. The defendant’s preliminary hearing was scheduled for February 2017, but it was continued and later waived. Numerous conferences were scheduled over the next several months, but they were largely continued or unattended by the defendant. A pre-trial conference was held on September 27, 2018, during which the defendant’s attorney made an oral motion arguing that the Commonwealth violated the defendant’s right to a prompt trial. A hearing was held in November 2018, after which the court dismissed the charges against the defendant. The Commonwealth appealed, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing the charges.

Right to a Prompt Trial

Rule 600 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a trial must commence within 365 days of when a criminal complaint is filed. It further states that any delays caused by the Commonwealth will be included in calculating the time during which the trial must commence, but any other delays will be excluded. Rule 600 protects the defendant’s right to a speedy trial. Thus, in assessing whether a defendant’s right to a prompt trial has been violated, consideration must be granted to society’s right to an effective prosecution of criminal cases.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.