De Novo Appeal | Municipal Court of Philadelphia

de novo appeal de novo appeal

I was found guilty in the Municipal Court of Philadelphia in my criminal case. I filed a de novo appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. I missed my court date and got a bench warrant. I appeared the next day to tell the judge that I got the dates confused. She dismissed my appeal and reinstated my sentence from Municipal Court. I was not read any appellate rights. If the appeal is a de novo appeal, that means new, and the old conviction was vacated, how can it be dismissed because I got my dates mixed up?

Under Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 1010, if you do not show up for any court date for your de novo appeal, the judge has the power to dismiss the appeal.

Rule 1010. Procedures for Trial De Novo. A)  When a defendant appeals after conviction by a Municipal Court judge,
(1)  in a non-traffic summary case, upon the filing of the transcript and other papers, the case shall be heard de novo by the judge of the Court of Common Pleas sitting without a jury.
(2)  In a Municipal Court case, the attorney for the Commonwealth, upon receiving the notice of appeal, shall prepare an information and the matter shall thereafter be treated in the same manner as any other court case.
(B)  If the defendant fails to appear for the trial de novo, the Common Pleas Court judge may dismiss the appeal and thereafter shall enter judgment in the Court of Common Pleas on the judgment of the Municipal Court judge.
(C)  Withdrawals of Appeals.   (1)  If the defendant withdraws the appeal, the Common Pleas Court judge shall enter judgment in the Court of Common Pleas on the judgment of the Municipal Court judge.
(2)  In a Municipal Court case, the defendant may withdraw the appeal only with the written consent of the attorney for the Commonwealth.
(D)  At the time of sentencing, the Common Pleas Court judge shall:
(1)  if the defendant’s sentence includes restitution, a fine, or costs, state the date on which payment is due. If the defendant is without the financial means to pay the amount in a single remittance, the Common Pleas Court judge may provide for installment payments and shall state the date on which each installment is due;
(2)  advise the defendant of the right to appeal to the Superior Court within 30 days of the imposition of sentence, and that, if an appeal is filed, the execution of sentence will be stayed and the Common Pleas Court judge may set bail;
(3)  if a sentence of imprisonment has been imposed, direct the defendant to appear for the execution of sentence on a date certain unless the defendant files a notice of appeal within the 30-day period; and
(4)  issue a written order imposing sentence, signed by the Common Pleas Court judge. The order shall include the information specified in paragraphs (D)(1) through (D)(3), and a copy of the order shall be given to the defendant.
(E)  After entry of judgment pursuant to paragraphs (B) or (C)(1), or after the trial de novo and imposition of sentence, the case shall remain in the Court of Common Pleas for the execution of sentence, including for the collection of any fines and restitution, for the collection of any costs, and for proceedings for violation of probation, intermediate punishment, or parole pursuant to Rule 708.

However, there are some bigger problems. First, the 6th amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees you jury trial in any prosecution. The law in federal court is a floor not a ceiling. That means Pennsylvania cannot give it’s citizens less rights than the federal government. The Municipal Court of Philadelphia does not afford citizens of a jury trial. The only exception is to give people a right to a de novo appeal. If the right to a de novo appeal was not in the rules, the criminal division of Municipal Court would be unconstitutional.

Therefore, Pa.R.Crim.P. 1010 seems unconstitutional if the jury right is stripped away for not appearing in court.

However, in cases that original in Common Pleas Court the Commonwealth can proceed in absentia if someone fails to appear for their case. I think the proper remedy is not a dismissal but instead an in absentia jury, where the Commonwealth is forced to follow all of the in absentia. The rules to proceed in absentia are basically that the Commonwealth must guarantee that you aren’t dead, in the hospital, or locked up on another case.

Another issue, you should have been read appellate rights twice. Once after the Municipal Court sentencing, and again when the Common Pleas Court dismissed the appeal when you went to court the next day.

In the Municipal Court, you were probably told you had appellate rights based on the idea that you filed a de novo appeal. However, you should have been told that if you don’t appear your matter will be dismissed.

In Common Pleas Court, you definetly should have been read appellate rights on the dismissal of the case because the judge reinstated your old sentence.


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