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Pennsylvania Superior Court Dismisses DUI Appeal as Untimely

A driver appealed from the order entered in the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas denying his motion for a waiver or reduction of the court costs and fines imposed as a result of his July 8, 2014 conviction and sentence for one count of driving under the influence of a controlled substance. The Pennsylvania Superior Court dismissed the appeal.

The driver raised the following issues on appeal:  (1) whether the trial court erred when it did not hear the trial set and accepted a guilty plea; (2) whether the trial court erred when it failed to remove defense counsel and appoint new counsel for the driver; and (3) whether the trial court erred when it denied the driver’s petitions to waive court costs and fines.

The court first explained that pursuant to Pennsylvania law, a notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days after the entry of the order from which the appeal is taken. The notice of appeal shall be filed with the clerk of the trial court. Upon receipt of the notice of appeal, the clerk shall immediately stamp it with the date of receipt, and that date shall constitute the date when the appeal was taken, which date shall be shown on the docket. The Pennsylvania Superior Court has held that limitations for taking appeals are strictly construed and cannot be extended as a matter of grace. This court can raise the matter sua sponte, however, since the issue is one of jurisdiction to entertain the appeal. Generally, an appellate court may not enlarge the time for filing a notice of appeal. An extension of the appeal filing period is permitted only in extraordinary circumstances, such as fraud or some breakdown in the court’s operation.

When an appellant files a motion for reconsideration of a final order, he must file a protective notice of appeal to ensure the preservation of his appellate rights, in the event the court does not expressly grant reconsideration within the 30-day appeal period. In other words, the mere filing of a motion for reconsideration does not toll the 30-day appeal period. It is well-settled that, upon the filing of a motion for reconsideration, a trial court’s action in granting a rule to show cause and setting a hearing date is insufficient to toll the appeal period. Instead, the trial court must expressly grant reconsideration within 30 days of the entry of its order.

What’s more, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has consistently held that an appeal from an order denying reconsideration is improper and untimely. In this context, the appeal does not lie from the order denying reconsideration; filing an appeal from that order is insufficient to preserve appellate rights, since the court will not permit an appellant to do indirectly that which he cannot do directly.

In the current case, the court explained, the driver filed his most recent motion for a waiver or reduction of court costs and fines on November 18, 2016. The court denied relief on November 21, 2016. The driver filed a motion for reconsideration on November 30, 2016, and the court denied reconsideration on December 2, 2016. The driver’s current appeal did not lie from the December 2 order denying reconsideration. Instead, he had only until December 21, 2016 to file a notice of appeal from the November 21 final order denying relief. The driver did not file his notice of appeal until January 3, 2017, which was patently untimely.

The record contained no evidence of extraordinary circumstances, such as a court holiday or closing, or a breakdown in the operations of the court, to excuse the driver’s untimely filing. Therefore, his failure to file the notice of appeal within 30 days of the November 21, 2016 order denying his motion for a waiver or reduction of court costs and fines divested the Pennsylvania Superior Court of appellate jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal as untimely.

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More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Upholds DUI-Related Drug Convictions, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, July 6, 2017.

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Upholds Defendant’s Resentencing Following New DUI Conviction, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, May 9, 2017.

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Rejects Constitutionality Challenge to DUI Statute, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, May 1, 2017.