A defendant appealed from the July 2016 judgment of sentence entered in the McKean County Court of Common Pleas following his convictions for DUI and careless driving. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed.
The defendant raised one issue on appeal: whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motions to dismiss pursuant to Pennsylvania Criminal Rule 600, which pertains to the guarantee of a “prompt trial.”
The appeals court began by outlining the applicable law. While Rule 600 requires the Commonwealth to try a defendant within 365 days of the filing of a criminal complaint, a defendant is not automatically entitled to discharge under Rule 600 if the trial starts more than 365 days after the filing of the complaint. Instead, Rule 600 provides for the dismissal of charges only in cases in which the defendant has not been brought to trial within the term of the adjusted run date, after subtracting all excludable and excusable time. The adjusted run date is calculated by adding to the mechanical run date, i.e., the date 365 days from the complaint, both excludable and excusable delays.
The defendant argued that his trial commenced beyond the mechanical run date and any adjustments thereto. According to him, a number of trial dates were available after his July 16 request to list his case for trial. He asserted that the Commonwealth failed to show due diligence because it offered no explanation as to why his case was not tried on any of those available dates.
In its Rule 1925(a) opinion, the trial court found that while the defendant’s trial did not occur before the mechanical run date, his trial occurred before the adjusted run date. The appeals court agreed.
The mechanical run date of the defendant’s case was March 16, 2016, 365 days from the filing of the criminal complaint. The trial court correctly found that the 14 days between April 26, 2015 and May 6, 2015 was excludable time because any continuance granted at the request of the defendant or the defendant’s attorney is excludable. In addition, the trial court correctly found that the 29 days between April 26, 2016 and May 25, 2016 was excusable time. It is well settled that when a witness becomes unavailable toward the end of the Rule 600 run date due to illness, vacation, or another reason not within the Commonwealth’s control, the Commonwealth is prevented from commencing the trial within the requisite period despite due diligence, and an extension of time is warranted. The record showed that, but for an expert’s medical emergency, the Commonwealth was ready to try the case on April 26, 2016.
The trial court also correctly excused the 42 days between March 15, 2016 and April 26, 2016 as judicial delay. While both the Commonwealth and the defendant were ready to try the case on March 15, 2016, the trial court was still conducting a jury trial from March 14 that continued into March 15. Since no courtroom or judge was available for the defendant’s trial, the court administration moved his case to April 26, 2016, which was “the next available jury trial date.” The trial court concluded that these circumstances were not within the Commonwealth’s control, and thus the Commonwealth should not be punished for the delay.
The appeals court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that no Rule 600 violation occurred.
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More Blog Posts:
Pennsylvania Superior Court Dismisses DUI Appeal as Untimely, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, July 19, 2017.
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.