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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JOHN R. CODER (06/10/80)

decided: June 10, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
JOHN R. CODER, APPELLEE



No. 224 JANUARY TERM, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court at No. 318, April Term, Reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County, at No. 6, August Term, 1974.

COUNSEL

Robert F. Banks, First Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellant.

Scott A. Williams, Williamsport, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Nix, J., filed a concurring opinion. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which O'Brien and Kauffman, JJ., joined.

Author: Flaherty

[ 490 Pa. Page 197]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This appeal arises from an order by the trial court taxing appellee, John R. Coder, with the costs of his prosecution including costs accruing from a change of venue granted on his motion.*fn1 Initially Coder was charged with costs exceeding $10,000. He objected and the Commonwealth was ordered to provide him with a bill of costs to which he could file exceptions. After a hearing on the exceptions, the trial court reduced the amount and ordered Coder to pay approximately $8,000. The Superior Court reversed, concluding that Coder should be taxed only for the amount the costs of prosecution would have been had the trial taken place in Lycoming County.*fn2 We reverse.

This case is governed by Section 64 of the Act of March 31, 1860, P.L. 427*fn3 which provides, inter alia, ". . . in

[ 490 Pa. Page 198]

    all cases of conviction of any crime, all costs shall be paid by the party convicted." As succinctly stated by President Judge Cercone in the court below:

"It is clear that the legislature has determined that a person who commits a crime thereby triggering the prosecutorial machinery of the Commonwealth, should repay the Commonwealth the necessary costs and expenses of prosecution, if he is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and is financially able to do so."

Commonwealth v. Coder, 252 Pa. Super. 508, 519, 382 A.2d 131, 137 (1977) (Cercone, J. dissenting).

Coder argues that requiring him to pay costs accruing from a change of venue constitutes a penalty and exerts a "chilling" effect on the exercise of his constitutional right to a fair trial. We disagree. The purpose of the statute is to recoup the costs of trial where a jury finds the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, not to chill the assertion of constitutional rights by penalizing those who choose to exercise them. Imposition of admittedly difficult choices ...


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