No. 1747 October Term, 1977, Appeal from the Order dated May 27, 1977 of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Criminal Division, at 4654 and 4654.1 - 1976.
William T. Nicholas, District Attorney, Norristown, for Commonwealth, appellant.
No appearance entered nor brief submitted for appellee.
Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Watkins, former President Judge, and Hoffman, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
[ 258 Pa. Super. Page 155]
In this appeal by the Commonwealth from the lower court's dismissal of simple assault and disorderly conduct charges, only one question need be answered: Is a district attorney's failure to sign an information, in counties where the indicting grand jury has been abolished, a mere formal defect which may be cured by amendment or does the absence of the signature render the purported information void ab initio ? We agree with Judge DAVENPORT of the court below that an unsigned information is a nullity; we therefore affirm.
Appellant, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, contends that the district attorney's failure to sign such an information is an amendable defect.*fn1 The Commonwealth argues that appellee's failure to file a motion to quash the information*fn2 within the time limits set forth in Rules 304 and 305*fn3 resulted in waiver of her opportunity to challenge the informations.*fn4
[ 258 Pa. Super. Page 156]
If we were to conclude, as appellant urges, that the lack of a signature was a curable defect in the informations, we would be compelled to find that appellee has waived her right to have the charges dismissed. See Commonwealth v. Brown, 462 Pa. 578, 342 A.2d 84 (1975); Commonwealth v. Williams, 252 Pa. Super. 587, 384 A.2d 935 (1978). We are not persuaded, however, by the Commonwealth's citation of cases holding that a district attorney's failure to sign a bill of indictment may be remedied by amendment.*fn5
A bill of indictment presented by a grand jury has indicia of reliability not bound in a bill of information. The grand jury has made an independent determination of the sufficiency of the evidence which need merely be ratified by the district attorney. In the case of a bill of information, however, it is the prosecutor alone who must decide whether to bring the defendant to trial. When the vehicle for initiating a criminal trial (i. e., the information) is unsigned, it is not at all apparent that a reasoned evaluation of the advisability of instituting a criminal trial has been made. The signature on the information is, therefore, a vital ingredient which guarantees the authenticity and reliability of the document. The requirement of Rule 225(b) that the
[ 258 Pa. Super. Page 157]
information be signed by the attorney for the Commonwealth must, as a result, be deemed mandatory rather than merely directory.
We believe, and therefore hold, that the failure of the district attorney to sign an information renders it void, not merely voidable. Until a validly signed information is issued there is in reality no information to be quashed. In the instant case there were no charges properly before the court at the time trial was ...