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Pennsylvania Court Discusses Right to a Speedy Trial in DUI Cases

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.

The rule was not drafted to insulate criminal defendants from delays in the prosecution that were not caused by the Commonwealth, however. Thus, as long as the Commonwealth has not committed any misconduct in an attempt to delay the trial, the rule must be construed in a manner so as to deter crime. In cases in which the defendant has not been tried within 365 days of the filing of the complaint, after time has been adjusted for excusable delays or excluded time, the charges may be dismissed. Excusable delays are delays that are caused by factors beyond the Commonwealth’s control and despite the Commonwealth’s due diligence.

In the subject case, the court found that the Commonwealth did not meet the burden of providing that additional time was excusable under Rule 600, in that it provided no evidence to support the argument that the trial could not have been scheduled at an earlier date. Additionally, the court noted that the Commonwealth did not argue that it was actually prepared for trial. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Consult a Capable DUI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a DUI, it is important to consult a capable Pennsylvania DUI attorney regarding how you can protect your rights. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a skilled criminal defense attorney who will fight diligently to help you seek a successful outcome. You can contact Mr. Cooper via the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a free and confidential consultation.