Rule 117. Coverage: Issuing Warrants; Preliminary Arraignments and Summary Trials; and Setting and Accepting Bail.
(A) The president judge of each judicial district shall ensure sufficient availability of issuing authorities to provide the services required by the Rules of Criminal Procedure as follows:
(1) continuous coverage for the issuance of search warrants pursuant to Rule 203 and arrest warrants pursuant to Rule 513;
(2) coverage using one or a combination of the systems of coverage set forth in paragraph (B) to:
(a) conduct summary trials or set collateral in summary cases following arrests with a warrant issued pursuant to Rule 430(A) as provided in Rule 431(B)(3) and following arrests without a warrant as provided in Rule 441(C);
(b) conduct preliminary arraignments without unnecessary delay whenever a warrant of arrest is executed within the judicial district pursuant to Rule 516;
(c) set bail without unnecessary delay whenever an out-of-county warrant of arrest is executed within the judicial district pursuant to Rule 517(A);
(d) accept complaints and conduct preliminary arraignments without unnecessary delay whenever a case is initiated by an arrest without warrant pursuant to Rule 519(A)(1); and
(3) coverage during normal business hours for all other business.
(B) The president judge, taking into consideration the rights of the defendant and the judicial districts resources and coverage needs, by local rule promulgated pursuant to Rule 105, shall establish one or a combination of the following systems of coverage to provide the services enumerated in paragraph (A)(2):
(1) a traditional on-call system providing continuous coverage;
(2) an after-hours court or a night court staffed by an on-duty issuing authority and staff;
(3) a regional on-call system; or
(4) a schedule of specified times for after-hours coverage when the duty issuing authority will be available to conduct business.
(C) The president judge of each judicial district, by local rule promulgated pursuant to Rule 105, shall ensure that coverage is provided pursuant to Rule 520(B) to admit defendants to bail on any day and at any time in any case pending within the judicial district.
By this rule, the Supreme Court is clarifying the responsibility of president judges in supervising their respective judicial districts to ensure compliance with the statewide Rules of Criminal Procedure to prevent the violation of the rights of defendants caused by the lack of availability of the issuing authority. See also Rule 116 (General Supervisory Powers of President Judge) and Rule 131 (Location of Proceedings Before Issuing Authority).
Paragraph (A), derived from former Rule 132(A) (Continuous Availability), clarifies that it is the president judges responsibility to make sure that there are issuing authorities available within his or her judicial district (1) on a continuous basis to issue search and arrest warrants, paragraph (A)(1); (2) pursuant to one or a combination of the systems of coverage enumerated in paragraph (B) to conduct summary trials and preliminary arraignments, and perform related duties, paragraph (A)(2); and (3) during normal business hours to conduct all other business of the minor judiciary, paragraph (A)(3). It is expected that the president judge will continue the established procedures in the judicial district or establish new procedures to ensure sufficient availability of issuing authorities consistent with this paragraph.
By providing the alternate systems of coverage in paragraph (B), this rule recognizes the differences in the geography and judicial resources of the judicial districts.
An issuing authority is available pursuant to paragraph (A) when he or she is able to communicate in person or by using advanced communication technology (ACT) with the person requesting services pursuant to this rule. See Rule 103 for the definition of ACT. Concerning the use of ACT, see Rule 118 (Use of Two-Way Simultaneous Audio-Visual Communication in Criminal Proceedings). See also Rules 203, 513, 518, and 540 providing for the use of ACT to request and obtain warrants and conduct preliminary arraignments.
Nothing in this rule limits an issuing authority from exercising sound judicial discretion, within the parameters established by the president judge pursuant to paragraph (B), in deciding how to respond to a request for services outside normal business hours. See, e.g., Rule 509, paragraphs (1) and (2),that authorize the use of summonses instead of warrants in certain court cases; and Rule 519(B) that requires the police officer to release a defendant arrested without a warrant in certain specified court cases.
In determining which system of coverage to elect, the president judge must consider the rights of the defendant, see, e.g. Commonwealth v. Duncan, 514 Pa. 395, 525 A.2d 1177 (1987), and the judicial districts resources and coverage needs, as well as the obligations of the police and attorney for the Commonwealth to ensure the defendant is brought before an issuing authority without unnecessary delay as required by law, see, e.g., Rules 431, 441, 516, 517, and 519. See also Commonwealth v. Perez, 577 Pa. 360, 845 A.2d 779 (2004).
When the police must detain a defendant pursuant to these rules, 61 P. S. § 798 provides that the defendant may be housed for a period not to exceed 48 hours in the borough and township lockups and city or county prisons.
The proceedings enumerated in paragraph (A)(2) include (1) setting bail before verdict pursuant to Rule 520(A) and Rule 540, and either admitting the defendant to bail or committing the defendant to jail, and (2) determining probable cause whenever a defendant is arrested without a warrant pursuant to Rule 540(E).
Pursuant to paragraph (C), the president judge also is responsible for making sure there is an issuing authority or other designated official available within the judicial district on a continuous basis to accept bail pursuant to Rule 520(B). The president judge, by local rule, may continue established procedures or establish new procedures for the after-hours acceptance of deposits of bail by an issuing authority, a representative of the office of the clerk of courts, or such other individual designated by the president judge. See Rule 535(A). Given the complexities of posting real estate to satisfy a monetary condition of release, posting of real estate may not be feasible outside normal business hours.
When the president judge designates another official to accept bail deposits, that officials authority is limited under this rule to accepting the bail deposit, and under Rule 525 to releasing the defendant upon execution of the bail bond. Pursuant to Rule 535(A), the official is authorized only to have the defendant execute the bail bond and to deliver the bail deposit and bail bond to the issuing authority or clerk of courts.
The local rule requirements in paragraphs (B) and (C):
(1) ensure there is adequate notice of (a) the system of coverage, thereby providing predictability in the issuing authoritys duty schedule, and (b) the official authorized to accept bail; (2) promote the efficient administration of justice; and (3) provide a means for the Supreme Court to monitor the times and manner of coverage in each judicial district.
The local rules promulgated pursuant to this rule should include other relevant information, such as what are the normal business hours of operation or any special locations designated by the president judge to conduct business, that will assist the defendants, defense counsel, attorneys for the Commonwealth, police, and members of the public.
Concerning other requirements for continuous coverage by issuing authorities in Protection from Abuse Act cases, see 23 Pa.C.S. § 6110 and Pa.R.C.P.D.J. 1203.
Former Rule 117 adopted September 20, 2002, effective January 1, 2003; renumbered Rule 118 June 30, 2005, effective August 1, 2006. New Rule 117 adopted June 30, 2005, effective August 1, 2006; Comment revised July 31, 2012, effective November 1, 2012.
Committee Explanatory Reports:
Final Report explaining the provisions of the new rule published with the Courts Order at 35 Pa.B. 3911 (July 16, 2005).
Final Report explaining the July 31, 2012 revision of the Comment changing the citation to Rule 540(C) to Rule 540(E) published with the Courts Order at 42 Pa.B. 5340 (August 18, 2012).
The provisions of this Rule 117 adopted June 30, 2005, effective August 1, 2006, 35 Pa.B. 3901; amended July 31, 2012, effective November 1, 2012, 42 Pa.B. 5333. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (354888) to (354890).
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