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COMMONWEALTH v. SMITH (03/29/76)

decided: March 29, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SMITH, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, May T., 1972, No. 209, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James F. Smith.

COUNSEL

Carol E. Haltrecht, Assistant Public Defender, with her John R. Merrick, Public Defender, for appellant.

Vincent M. Dadamo, Assistant District Attorney, with him Timothy H. Knauer, Assistant District Attorney, and William H. Lamb, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Hoffman, J.

Author: Hoffman

[ 239 Pa. Super. Page 441]

The sole issue presented in this appeal is whether a defendant who is acquitted of a felony, but convicted of a misdemeanor, may be ordered to pay the entire costs of the prosecution.

On January 11, 1973, appellant was tried by a jury on three bills of indictment: indictment number 208, May Term, 1972, charged appellant with murder; indictment number 209 charged appellant with three counts of possession of a firearm without a license; and indictment number 210 charged appellant with two counts of pointing and discharging a deadly weapon. The jury found appellant guilty of one count of illegal possession of a firearm and acquitted him of all the remaining charges. On February 22, 1973, appellant was sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment of eighteen to thirty-six months, to pay a fine of $500.00, and to pay the costs of prosecution. On July 6, 1973, the Chester County Clerk of Courts determined that the costs of prosecution were $770.11, $671.11 of which was chargeable to appellant.

Appellant served the minimum prison term and was released on December 11, 1973. During his incarceration, appellant earned $230.00; these funds were transferred to the Clerk of Courts. Thus, appellant still owed the county $441.11. On October 11, 1974, appellant filed a "Petition to Set Aside Costs," alleging that only those costs necessary for the firearms conviction were

[ 239 Pa. Super. Page 442]

    chargeable to him. Appellant asserted that the costs necessary for that conviction were $82.15; he petitioned the court, therefore, to remit any amount already paid in excess of $82.15. The Commonwealth filed an answer on October 25, 1974; the petition was denied by the lower court on January 6, 1975. This appeal followed.

By virtue of the Act of 1860, all persons convicted of a crime are liable for the costs of their prosecution: ". . . in all cases of conviction for any crime, all costs shall be paid by the party convicted . . ." 19 P.S. § 1223.*fn1 See also, Commonwealth v. Davy, 456 Pa. 88, 89, n.1, 317 A.2d 48, n.1 (1974); Commonwealth v. Garramone, 115 Pa. Superior Ct. 588, 176 A. 263 (1935). The narrow issue presented in the instant case is whether "all costs" means those costs which were necessary for the successful prosecution, or the entire costs of the prosecution without regard to whether any portion of the costs were unnecessary for the successful prosecution.

If a defendant is charged only with a felony but is acquitted, costs cannot be imposed on him: ". . . the costs of prosecution accruing on bills of indictment charging a party with felony, shall, if such party be acquitted by the petit jury on the traverse of the same, be paid by the county . . ." 19 P.S. § 1223, supra. If a defendant is charged only with a misdemeanor, but is acquitted, the law formerly permitted the jury to impose costs on him: ". . . in all cases of acquittals by the petit jury on indictments for [misdemeanors], the jury trying the same shall determine by their verdict, whether the county, or the prosecutor, or the defendant shall pay the costs, or whether the same shall be apportioned between the prosecutor and the defendant, ...


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