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Right to Speedy Trial

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Criminal Trial Lawyer, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the rules of court provide that a criminal defendant must be brought to trial from the date of the filing of a formal complaint within 365 days. In the event the criminal defendant is incarcerated and unable to make bail, then the prosecution has 180 days to bring the defendant to trial. If not, the defendant then has the right to reduced or nominal bail.

Delay Caused by the Defendant - Excludable

However, for every rule there are always exclusions. Any delay caused or created by the defendant or his trial attorney is “excludable” from the 365 days. In other words, if the defendant goes on the run, the defendant or his counsel requires a continuance of a court proceeding, or the defendant file a pre-trial motion that will require additional time for the courts to address, for instance, that’s all time that is added to the end of the 365 days.

Delay Caused by the Commonwealth - Not Excludable

The Commonwealth must always exercise “due diligence” in bringing the defendant’s matter to trial. Recently, in Commonwealth v. Carter, 2019 Pa. Super 49 (Feb. 21, 2019) the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the Commonwealth failed to exercise due diligence when, despite asking the district magistrate’s office to have the defendant arraigned, it later failed to take necessary steps to accomplish the arraignment and to timely list the matter for trial. The delay therefore, was not excludable. The 365 day clock did not stop.

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