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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. DENNIS L. YOUNG (06/13/89)

filed: June 13, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
DENNIS L. YOUNG, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence entered September 1, 1987 in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Criminal Division, at No. 2066-82.

COUNSEL

Ellen B. Sheehan, West Chester, for appellant.

Stuart B. Suss, Assistant District Attorney, West Chester, for Com., appellee.

Del Sole, Melinson and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Del Sole

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 138]

In this appeal we are asked to assess the implications of an approximately three and a half (3 1/2) year delay between the conclusion of Appellant's non-jury trial and the rendering of the verdict of guilty on the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance. 75 Pa.C.S.A. ยง 3731(a)(1).

The facts leading to this delay are as follows. Appellant was tried non-jury by President Judge Sugarman on July 7, 1983. Following the trial, and at the request of the parties, closing argument was deferred until August 4th, 1983. Then nothing further occurred in this case until December 19, 1986, three years and four months later, when the court, again with the President Judge on the bench, rendered the verdict of guilty as charged. No reason for the delay appears on the record, and it was apparent that neither party's counsel brought the delay to the trial court's attention. After a hearing, post-trial motions, including a motion based upon Appellant's claimed deprivation of his speedy trial rights, were denied, and the Appellant was sentenced to one year non-reporting probation, payment of a $300.00 fine, and payment of the costs of prosecution.

Appellant raises several issues on appeal which all concern the excessive delay between trial and verdict. We agree that this delay resulted in the deprivation of Appellant's right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, and accordingly we

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 139]

    dismiss the charges against Appellant. Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 522, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 2188, 33 L.Ed.2d 101 (1972).

At the outset, we must determine whether the Sixth Amendment applies to delays in rendering a verdict. Neither the Pennsylvania courts nor the United States Supreme Court have expressly held that a delay in rendering a verdict is part of a trial for the purposes of the Speedy Trial clause. However, our court has recently made explicit what was assumed in previous cases in our court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, that the Sixth Amendment applies to delays from the time the accused is arrested or criminally charged, up through the time the accused is sentenced. Commonwealth v. Greer, 382 Pa. Super. 127, 554 A.2d 980 (1989), also see, Commonwealth v. Glover, 500 Pa. 524, 458 A.2d 935 (1983); Commonwealth v. Atkinson, 364 Pa. Super. 384, 528 A.2d 210 (1987).

Given that a sentencing delay may cause a deprivation of speedy trial rights, it is clear that a delay in rendering a verdict, which occurs earlier in the proceedings and is a prerequisite for sentencing and post-trial motions, must necessarily implicate those same rights. We will therefore determine whether the three and one-half (3 1/2) year delay between trial and verdict constituted a violation of Appellant's right to a speedy trial.

Here, the trial court, after determining that this Sixth Amendment right was at issue, turned to the application of the balancing test first enunciated in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 33 L.Ed.2d 101 (1972), in which the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant are weighed. Commonwealth v. Glover, supra, 500 Pa. at 528, 458 A.2d at 937; Jones v. Commonwealth, 495 Pa. 490, 434 A.2d 1197 (1981). We agree that the application of this test which requires assessing four factors, the length of delay, ...


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