Written by Gregory Monte.
How about if I start with a really short answer and then leave the details for whoever want to delve into them?
Three Years … that is the statute of limitations for traffic tickets.
That is a long time, and 99 times out of a 100 (at least) your ticket will be disposed of before those three years are up … but hey, you never now …
What the Law Says
“Disposition of proceedings within three years. -No proceedings shall be held or action taken pursuant to a summary offense under Title 75 subsequent to three years after the commission of the offense.”
You would think that this section is about as clear as a law gets, but you would be wrong. As I explain in the next part of this post, the Commonwealth didn’t see it this way. But before I get to that, it is important to realize that the statute of limitation used to be TWO years before the law was changed by Act 166 in 2004:
“Amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for summary offenses involving vehicles … Section 5553(e) of Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes are amended to read … Disposition of proceedings within [two] three years. -No proceedings shall be held or action taken pursuant to a summary offense under Title 75 subsequent to [two] three years after the commission of the offense.”
I mention this because when you read the court case in the next section, a reference is made to two years – not three – because the case was heard in 1984 (long before the rule was modified). Incidentally, this change did not affect any other wording in the sub-section so the Court’s interpretation still holds as far as I can tell. The only modification was the number of years.
What the PA Supreme Court Said
The PA Supreme Court in Com. v. Jannenga, 483 A. 2d 963 (1984), is very direct in its opinion vacating the sentence of appellant. Even though the lower court tried to blame the delay on the fact that the defendant was acting pro se, the court indicated that this was not the case at all. Here is the reasoning:
“A reading of subsection (e) clearly shows that it does not pertain to the commencement of proceedings, but rather their completion. Subsection (e) is susceptible of no other interpretation than that any summary proceedings initiated under Title 75 must be disposed of at the trial level within two years or not at all … Whatever the reason for the delay, the fact remains that the trial court failed to complete the proceedings against Appellant within two years of the offense, thus violating section 5553(e).”
If you follow my blog with any regularity, you know that I categorize all posts in my archives. When it comes to judges, there are three such categories:
Judges are Funny!
I think you know where this one belongs …