A review of the Pennsylvania Rule 600 – A right to a Speedy Trial

Speedy Trial: When Can I get my Case Dismissed?

Rule 600 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure was recently amended.  This rule codified the state and federal constitutional provisions that ensure a criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial.  Under this rule, the Commonwealth is required to bring a defendant to trial within a specific amount of time, which varies depending in large part on whether the defendant is incarcerated.  If the Commonwealth fails to bring the case to trial within the appropriate time frame, the defendant can file a motion and ask the court to dismiss, with prejudice, the charges against him/her.

When must a case be brought to trial if the defendant is incarcerated?

Generally, when the defendant is incarcerated on that case, the Commonwealth has 180 days from the date the written criminal complaint was filed to commence trial.  Trial commences when the judge calls the case to trial, or when the defendant enters a plea. If 180 days have passed, the defendant may file a motion to be released on nominal bail.

However, if the defendant was charged with a crime which does not allow the defendant to be released on bail, the trial is not required to begin within 180 days, and the defendant may not file a motion to be released on nominal bail.  For example, a defendant charged with a capital crime, such as first degree murder, is not entitled to bail.  Therefore, the trial must begin within 365 days of the date the criminal complint was filed.

When must a case be brought to trial if the defendant is free on bail?

Generally, trial must commence within 365 days from the date the criminal complaint was filed.

How is time calculated for Rule 600 purposes?

Generally, if the defendant is not incarcerated, any delay caused by the Commonwealth, when the Commonwealth fails to exercise due diligence, shall be included in the computation of time within which a trial shall commence.  All other delays shall be excluded.

Generally, if the defendant is incarcerated, only those delays caused by the defendant will be excluded from the computation of time.  All other delays will be included.

The full text of the rule, which became effective on July 1, 2013 can be read below:

Rule 600. Prompt Trial.

(A)  COMMENCEMENT OF TRIAL; TIME FOR TRIAL

(1)  For the purpose of this rule, trial shall be deemed to commence on the date the trial judge calls the case to trial, or the defendant tenders a plea of guilty or nolo contendere.

(2)  Trial shall commence within the following time periods.

(a)   Trial in a court case in which a written complaint is filed against the defendant shall commence within 365 days from the date on which the complaint is filed.

(b)   Trial in a court case that is transferred from the juvenile court to the trial or criminal division shall commence within 365 days from the date on which the transfer order is filed.

(c)   When a trial court has ordered that a defendant’s participation in the ARD program be terminated pursuant to Rule 318, trial shall commence within 365 days from the date on which the termination order is filed.

(d)   When a trial court has granted a new trial and no appeal has been perfected, the new trial shall commence within 365 days from the date on which the trial court’s order is filed.

(e)   When an appellate court has remanded a case to the trial court, the new trial shall commence within 365 days from the date of the written notice from the appellate court to the parties that the record was remanded.

(B)  PRETRIAL INCARCERATION

Except in cases in which the defendant is not entitled to release on bail as provided by law, no defendant shall be held in pretrial incarceration in excess of

(1)  180 days from the date on which the complaint is filed; or

(2)  180 days from the date on which the order is filed transferring a court case from the juvenile court to the trial or criminal division; or

(3)  180 days from the date on which the order is filed terminating a defendant’s participation in the ARD program pursuant to Rule 318; or

(4)  120 days from the date on which the order of the trial court is filed granting a new trial when no appeal has been perfected; or

(5)  120 days from the date of the written notice from the appellate court to the parties that the record was remanded.

(C)  COMPUTATION OF TIME

(1)  For purposes of paragraph (A), periods of delay at any stage of the proceedings caused by the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth has failed to exercise due diligence shall be included in the computation of the time within which trial must commence. Any other periods of delay shall be excluded from the computation.

(2)  For purposes of paragraph (B), only periods of delay caused by the defendant shall be excluded from the computation of the length of time of any pretrial incarceration. Any other periods of delay shall be included in the computation.

(3)(a) When a judge or issuing authority grants or denies a continuance:

(i)   the issuing authority shall record the identity of the party requesting the continuance and the reasons for granting or denying the continuance; and

(ii)   the judge shall record the identity of the party requesting the continuance and the reasons for granting or denying the continuance. The judge also shall record to which party the period of delay caused by the continuance shall be attributed, and whether the time will be included in or excluded from the computation of the time within which trial must commence in accordance with this rule.

(b)   The determination of the judge or issuing authority is subject to review as provided in paragraph (D)(3).

(D)  REMEDIES

(1)  When a defendant has not been brought to trial within the time periods set forth in paragraph (A), at any time before trial, the defendant’s attorney, or the defendant if unrepresented, may file a written motion requesting that the charges be dismissed with prejudice on the ground that this rule has been violated. A copy of the motion shall be served on the attorney for the Commonwealth concurrently with filing. The judge shall conduct a hearing on the motion.

(2)  Except in cases in which the defendant is not entitled to release on bail as provided by law, when a defendant is held in pretrial incarceration beyond the time set forth in paragraph (B), at any time before trial, the defendant’s attorney, or the defendant if unrepresented, may file a written motion requesting that the defendant be released immediately on nominal bail subject to any nonmonetary conditions of bail imposed by the court as permitted by law. A copy of the motion shall be served on the attorney for the Commonwealth concurrently with filing. The judge shall conduct a hearing on the motion.

(3)  Any requests for review of the determination in paragraph (C)(3) shall be raised in a motion or answer filed pursuant to paragraph (D)(1) or paragraph (D)(2).

(E)  Nothing in this rule shall be construed to modify any time limit contained in any statute of limitations.