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Right to a Speedy Trial - PA Rule of Criminal Procedure 600

A person charged with a crime has a right to a speedy trial under Article I, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  While neither Section specifies the time within which a criminal defendant must be brought to trial, the Pennsylvania Criminal Procedural Rules Committee has adopted Rule 600 (formerly Rule 1100) which sets forth when a defendant must be brought to trial in various situations.

· Rule 600(A)(2)(a): Trial shall commence within 365 days from when the criminal complaint is filed.

· Rule 600(A)(2)(b): Trial shall commence within 365 days from the date when an order is filed which transfers a case from juvenile court.

· Rule 600(A)(2)(c): Trial shall commence within 365 days from the date when an order is filed which terminates a person's participation in the ARD program.

· Rule 600(A)(2)(d): Trial shall commence within 365 days from the date when a trial court order is filed which grants a new trial.

· Rule 600(A)(2)(e): Trial shall commence within 365 days from the date when an appellate court provides notice that the case has been remanded to the trial court.

The remedy for a violation of any of the time periods in Rule 600(A) is a dismissal of charges with prejudice. Rule 600(D)(1).

Unless a person is not entitled to release on bail (typically when a person is charged with homicide), Rule 600(B) governs the amount of time a person can be incarcerated before trial.

· Rule 600(B)(1): Trial shall commence within 180 days from when the criminal complaint is filed.

· Rule 600(B)(2): Trial shall commence within 180 days from the date when an order is filed which transfer a case from juvenile court.

· Rule 600(B)(3): Trial shall commence within 180 days from the date when an order is filed which terminates a person's participation in the ARD program.

· Rule 600(B)(4): Trial shall commence within 120 days from the date when a trial court order is filed which grants a new trial.

· Rule 600(B)(5): Trial shall commence within 120 days from the date when an appellate court provides notice that the case has been remanded to the trial court.

The remedy for a violation of any of the time periods in Rule 600(B) is for a person to be released on nominal bond. Rule 600(D)(2).

While the time periods set forth above are straightforward, there is often litigation over the computation of time. Rule 600(C) provides what time is includable and excludable in the calculation. All delay attributable to a defendant is excludable. Therefore, any delay as a result of a continuance upon request of the defense is not included in the calculation.

Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth vs. Mills held that the time between the filing of the criminal complaint and the first scheduled status conference when the parties were preparing for trial is included in the calculation even though the Commonwealth did not request any continuances. Commonwealth vs. Mills, 162 A.3d 323 (Pa.2017).

Justice Wecht authored a well-reasoned concurring opinion in Mills discussing the concept of judicial delay and the Commonwealth's obligation to exercise due diligence to bring a defendant to trial. If a defendant is not brought to trial within the applicable time period due to judicial delay, the time is excludable (e.g., a defendant could not be brought to trial because of the court's calendar). However, before determining whether there was judicial delay, Justice Wecht stated that there must first be a finding that the Commonwealth acted with due diligence. Mills, 162 A.3d at 327. Therefore, if the Commonwealth did not take any action to bring a person to trial, such as by notifying the court of potential Rule 600 implications prior to the expiration of time, the time is included in the calculation.

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