Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 is used as a practical basis for insuring a defendant’s right to a speedy trial. It reads as follows:

(A) Commencement of Trial; Time for Trial

(1) For the purpose of this rule, trial shall be deemed to commence on the date the trial judge calls the case to trial, or the defendant tenders a plea of guilty or nolo contendere.

(2) Trial shall commence within the following time periods.

(a) Trial in a court case in which a written complaint is filed against the defendant shall commence within 365 days from the date on which the complaint is filed.

(b) Trial in a court case that is transferred from the juvenile court to the trial or criminal division shall commence within 365 days from the date on which the transfer order is filed.

(c) When a trial court has ordered that a defendant's participation in the ARD program be terminated pursuant to Rule 318, trial shall commence within 365 days from the date on which the termination order is filed.

(d) When a trial court has granted a new trial and no appeal has been perfected, the new trial shall commence within 365 days from the date on which the trial court's order is filed.

(e) When an appellate court has remanded a case to the trial court, the new trial shall commence within 365 days from the date of the written notice from the appellate court to the parties that the record was remanded.

(B) Pretrial Incarceration

Except in cases in which the defendant is not entitled to release on bail as provided by law, no defendant shall be held in pretrial incarceration in excess of

(1) 180 days from the date on which the complaint is filed; or

(2) 180 days from the date on which the order is filed transferring a court case from the juvenile court to the trial or criminal division; or

(3) 180 days from the date on which the order is filed terminating a defendant's participation in the ARD program pursuant to Rule 318; or

(4) 120 days from the date on which the order of the trial court is filed granting a new trial when no appeal has been perfected; or

(5) 120 days from the date of the written notice from the appellate court to the parties that the record was remanded.

(C) Computation of Time

(1) For purposes of paragraph (A), periods of delay at any stage of the proceedings caused by the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth has failed to exercise due diligence shall be included in the computation of the time within which trial must commence. Any other periods of delay shall be excluded from the computation.

(2) For purposes of paragraph (B), only periods of delay caused by the defendant shall be excluded from the computation of the length of time of any pretrial incarceration. Any other periods of delay shall be included in the computation.

(3)(a) When a judge or issuing authority grants or denies a continuance:

(i) the issuing authority shall record the identity of the party requesting the continuance and the reasons for granting or denying the continuance; and

(ii) the judge shall record the identity of the party requesting the continuance and the reasons for granting or denying the continuance. The judge also shall record to which party the period of delay caused by the continuance shall be attributed, and whether the time will be included in or excluded from the computation of the time within which trial must commence in accordance with this rule.

(b) The determination of the judge or issuing authority is subject to review as provided in paragraph (D)(3).

(D) Remedies

(1) When a defendant has not been brought to trial within the time periods set forth in paragraph (A), at any time before trial, the defendant's attorney, or the defendant if unrepresented, may file a written motion requesting that the charges be dismissed with prejudice on the ground that this rule has been violated. A copy of the motion shall be served on the attorney for the Commonwealth concurrently with filing. The judge shall conduct a hearing on the motion.

(2) Except in cases in which the defendant is not entitled to release on bail as provided by law, when a defendant is held in pretrial incarceration beyond the time set forth in paragraph (B), at any time before trial, the defendant's attorney, or the defendant if unrepresented, may file a written motion requesting that the defendant be released immediately on nominal bail subject to any nonmonetary conditions of bail imposed by the court as permitted by law. A copy of the motion shall be served on the attorney for the Commonwealth concurrently with filing. The judge shall conduct a hearing on the motion.

(3) Any requests for review of the determination in paragraph (C)(3) shall be raised in a motion or answer filed pursuant to paragraph (D)(1) or paragraph (D)(2).

(E) Nothing in this rule shall be construed to modify any time limit contained in any statute of limitations.

Many are confused by this rule. Defendants often believe that it means that an individual’s charges will be dropped after 180 days after the arrest when they are imprisoned. That is not the case. As the rule discusses, certain time is excludable and others are considered excusable. These periods of time are added onto the 180 days. Generally, adding to the 180 days the number of days between a defense continuance and the following date will accurately provide the expiration date when a motion for nominal bail could be successful. After this period of time has expired, the Defendant may be released on nominal bail IF the court does not determine that no means other than incarceration can insure the public safety. If they are released on nominal bail, they still face the underlying charges.

The 365 days, which allow for dismissal, begin running from the same date applied above. The date that the charges are filed generally applies to those that are not in custody. Similarly, certain times are excludable and excusable, which act to extend this period of time. Finally, time delays passed the expiration date are often excused when it is the result of a busy judicial schedule.

The calculation of time is very confusing and I am uncertain whether this provides any assistance. Addition factors can cause further confusion, such as if the person is otherwise eligible for nominal bail but is held on a detainer. However, it is my hope that this provides somewhat of a groundwork to understand how an individual’s right to a speedy trial is applied in Pennsylvania.