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Commonwealth v. Sloan

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

May 28, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
STELLA SLOAN, Appellant

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence entered on November 2, 2009 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Criminal Division, No. CP-02-CR-0014095-2008

BEFORE: MUSMANNO, PANELLA and STRASSBURGER [*] , JJ.

OPINION

MUSMANNO, J.

Stella Sloan ("Sloan") appeals from the judgment of sentence imposed after she was convicted of theft by deception and receiving stolen property.[1]We vacate the judgment of sentence and remand to discharge Sloan based on a violation of Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600.

Sloan was convicted of the above offenses after a non-jury trial. The trial court sentenced her, on the charge of theft by deception, to a prison term of 12 to 60 months followed by a two-year probation term, and to a concurrent probation term of seven years on the charge of receiving stolen property. Sloan filed a timely appeal of the judgment of sentence. The trial court ordered Sloan to file a concise statement of matters complained of on appeal pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1925(b). After receiving an extension of time, Sloan filed her Concise Statement. Sloan raised the following issue on appeal:

Did the trial court abuse its discretion and/or commit an error of law when it denied [Sloan's] Motion to dismiss pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 600 . . . ?[2]

Brief for Appellant at 5. On appeal, this Court affirmed, relying on the trial court's Opinion of July 13, 2010. Commonwealth v. Sloan, 30 A.3d 551 (Pa. Super. 2011) (unpublished Memorandum at 3-4); see also Trial Court Opinion, 7/13/10, at 3-8.

Subsequently, Sloan filed a Petition for allowance of appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which was granted. The Supreme Court entered an Order vacating this Court's decision, and remanding to this Court "for reconsideration of the trial court's analysis, and preparation of an opinion, in light of Commonwealth v. Bradford, 46 A.3d 693 (Pa. 2012)." Commonwealth v. Sloan, 55 A.3d 1050 (Pa. 2012).

"In evaluating Rule [600] issues, our standard of review of a trial court's decision is whether the trial court abused its discretion." Commonwealth v. Hunt, 858 A.2d 1234, 1238 (Pa. Super. 2004).

"Rule 600 requires the court to consider whether the Commonwealth exercised due diligence, and whether the circumstances occasioning the delay of trial were beyond the Commonwealth's control." If the Commonwealth exercised due diligence and the delay was beyond the Commonwealth's control, "the motion to dismiss shall be denied." Pa.R.Crim.P. 600(G). The Commonwealth, however, has the burden of demonstrating by a preponderance of the evidence that it exercised due diligence. As has been oft stated, "[d]ue diligence is fact-specific, to be determined case-by-case; it does not require perfect vigilance and punctilious care, but merely a showing the Commonwealth has put forth a reasonable effort."

Bradford, 46 A.3d at 701-02 (citations omitted).

In Bradford, the police filed a criminal complaint against the defendant on September 24, 2008. Id. at 695. At the defendant's preliminary hearing on October 9, 2008, an assistant district attorney was present. Id. The magisterial district judge held all charges over for court and scheduled a formal arraignment for December 12, 2008. Id. However, the district judge failed to comply with Pa.R.Crim.P. 547(B), [3] which requires the district judge to forward the preliminary hearing transcript to the Department of Court Records of the Court of Common Pleas within five days of holding the defendant for court. Id. Therefore, the case was not entered into the Department of Court Records's docketing system. Bradford, 46 A.3d at 695. As a consequence, that docketing system did not generate a "CR number, " which would have triggered the district attorney's office's tracking system for Rule 600 run dates. Id.

After his preliminary hearing, the defendant returned to the Allegheny County jail, and no further proceedings occurred until October 9, 2009, when the defendant filed a counseled motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 600. Id. at 696.

Upon receipt of the motion to dismiss, the district attorney's office realized that the case had not been entered into its docketing system or the Court of Common Pleas' docketing system, and contacted the district judge's office, who faxed the required documents to the Department of Court Records. Id. The Department's docketing system then generated a CR number, which was transmitted to the district attorney's office on October 15, 2009. Id. On the same date, the district attorney filed a criminal information. Subsequently, a pre-trial conference was ...


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