All Citizens of Pennsylvania are guarenteed a right to a speedy trial. By now, most people have probably heard about the judge in Florida who threatened to, and allegedly assault an attorney who refused to waive his client's right to a speedy trial. The two men exchanged heated words in the courtroom, and apparently had an altercation off camera. In any event, the right to a speedy trial is an important right granted to defendants in criminal cases. This right ensures that the judicial process is swift and effective. The right to speedy trial can be found in both the United States Constitution, and in the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure.
In Allegheny County Criminal Court, a criminal defendant who is incarcerated is entitled to a trial within 180 days. If the defendant is not in jail, he or she must have a trial within 365 days. The clock starts running on the day the complaint is filed. The trial is considered to have commenced when the judge calls the case to trial, or when the defendant enters a plea of guilty or nolo contendere. There are certain scenarios where time is excluded from the counting of days under this rule. For example, a defendant may waive his or her right to a speedy trial. Also, delays caused by the defense are typically excluded from the count, such as time it takes to locate the defendant, or certain periods of time that are exhausted due to a motion by the defense.
If the allotted time for the right to a speedy trial is not met in Pennsylvania, the defendant may petition the court to dismiss the charges with prejudice. The court will typically look into the reason for the delay. If the trial was unreasonably delayed by the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Office, then the charges may be dismissed. If the delay was not unreasonable, and if the defendant was not prejudiced in any way, the trial may still be allowed to proceed.