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Rule 600: Right to Prompt Trial

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In Pennsylvania, every citizen has a right to a prompt trial.  Under Pennsylvania Rule 600, an individual is eligible for release on nominal bail if he is incarcerated for more than 180 days before his trial.  Further, the Rule states that trial shall commence within 365 days.  In reality, most significant cases in Pennsylvania may take more than a year to resolve.  This is because the rule excludes delay attributable to the defendant.  However, it is important to be aware of this rule, especially if you are charged with a significant crime.  The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently addressed 234 Pa. Code. Rule 600 in Commonwealth v. Terrence Morgan, No. 2896 EDA 2019.

In Morgan, the defendant was charged with Escape.  Defendant was arrested in Georgia months later and charged with homicide in an unrelated matter.  Defendant was convicted in Georgia and spent ten years in custody in Georgia.  Ten years later when he was about to be released, Pennsylvania extradited Morgan to Pennsylvania and tried on Escape charges.  Morgan was convicted and sentenced to 3 1/2 to 7 years state custody.

Morgan appealed to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and his sentence was reversed.  The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the trial court erred in denying Morgan’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 600.  According to the Court, it was ten years since the complaint against Morgan was filed.  Nevertheless, Pennsylvania took no action to extradite Morgan and prosecute him for ten years.  Further, the State of Georgia had advised the Sheriff’s Office that Morgan may be available for extradition following his conviction in Georgia.  Therefore, because the Sheriff’s office failed to exercise reasonable diligence in prosecuting Morgan the entire case was dismissed pursuant to Rule 600.

Rule 600 motions are generally brought in Pennsylvania for two specific purposes: to release a defendant from custody after six months; and to dismiss a case altogether after one year. Pursuant to 234 Pa. Code 600(B), a defendant is eligible for immediate release from prison after 180 days in custody without trial.  The rule clarifies that calculation of time credit includes periods, “where the Commonwealth has failed to exercise due diligence.”  The rule does not include time where the delay was caused by the defendant.  According to the Rule, any other periods of delay shall be included in the computation of time.  234 Pa. Code Rule 600(C)(2).  Therefore, all other time should be calculated under the rule.  Some judges may attempt to exclude “court continuances.”  Under Rule 600 this time should be calculated against the government.

Defendant may bring a Rule 600 motion to dismiss a case outright.  After 365 days a defendant may file a motion to dismiss under rule 600(A).  This was the motion filed by Terrence Morgan.  While the calculation of time is the same as the 600 motion to for bail, the outcome is total dismissal of the case.  Therefore, this rule may be incredibly in effective in dismissing cases where the government has failed to exercise due diligence.

Our firm has successfully released many defendants from custody under Rule 600(B) motions.  Recently, Mark Copoulos points with pride to the case of Commonwealth v. R.C.  In that case defendant was arrested and charged with Robbery.  Defendant languished in prison for nine (9) months without his court appointed counsel filing a 600(B) motion.  R.C. retained Copoulos who filed the motion.  The judge granted the motion with the condition of house arrest, and R.C. was immediately released from custody to his family.  R.C. is now preparing for trial from the comfort of his home.

If you have been charged with a serious crime, it is important be aware of Rule 600.  Under the rule, a case that is not expeditiously prosecuted may result in immediate release of the defendant or dismissal of the case altogether.  Similar to Morgan, a defendant who is the victim of government inefficiency may exploit this to his advantage.  Speak with a Philadelphia criminal defense about litigating a rule 600 motion or other legal defenses relevant to your criminal matter.  For a free consultation contact Mark D. Copoulos.  Our firm is available for free consultations.  We are offering remote consultations during COVID.  For a free consultation call our office at 267-535-9776.

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Mark D. Copoulos

Mark D. Copoulos

From 2008-2011 Mark D. Copoulos worked for the First Judicial District, the Honorable Arnold, and the Honorable Shelley-Robins as interns and/or staff....

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