Know Your rights
When someone is charged with a crime, they have the constitutional right to a speedy public trial. In the vernacular sense, time is an elusive creature in the modern criminal justice system. It is not unusual for criminal cases to take over a year to resolve from the time charges are filed. A careful and diligent lawyer can use the speedy trial rules to your advantage.
Where do speedy trial rights come from?
An accused’s right to a speedy trial comes from both the federal and Pennsylvania constitutions. In the Pennsylvania Constitution, it is enshrined in Article I, Section 9, which reads in part, “In all criminal proceedings the accused hat a right to . . . a speedy and public trial[.]” The Federal Constitution, which was based on the constitutions of several states (Pennsylvania among them) reads similarly: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy a right to a speedy and public trial[.]” U.S. Const. Amd. VI.
When are constitutional speedy trial rights violated?
The constitutional rights discussed above regarding trial time are vague. Neither constitution provides any explanation regarding when a trial is “speedy.” In fact, there is no hard-and-fast time limit under either constitution. In order to prove a violation of constitutional trial time provisions, a defendant has to prove that the delay negatively affected their case. That is to say, because of the time, he or she is in a materially worse position at trial. If he does, the judge will then decide the reason for the delay and whether dismissal is the appropriate remedy.
What about the Rules of Criminal Procedure?
Rule 600 of the Rules of Criminal procedure is a separate, rule-based speedy trial right. Unlike the constitutional provisions it is not vague and amorphous. Rule 600 requires that the Commonwealth bring a defendant to trial within 365 days of when it files the criminal complaint.
Not every day counts, though. Any delay that the defendant or his counsel caused is excluded from the calculation. Any delay that was outside the prosecutor’s control and happened despite his efforts to try the defendant is considered excusable delay and, likewise, does not count. What is and is not included in the calculation is highly nuanced and requires diligence and thoroughness on the part of the lawyer.
That is what we bring to the table. In every case, we diligently protect our client’s rights—both procedural and substantive—to achieve the best resolution possible. Call Pyfer Reese and ask to meet with Dan Bardo, Anthony DiDonato, or Chris Patterson.