A Philadelphia local rule imposing a 15-day deadline to appeal a municipal court’s suppression ruling is void and unenforceable, the Pennsylvania Superior Court decided in Com. v. Williams, __ A.3d __ (No. 2209 EDA 2014, filed Oct. 6, 2015). Jeffery Williams was arrested on drug charges after he was pulled over in Philadelphia for driving with the trunk of his car open. Williams moved to suppress the evidence, which the municipal court granted. The Commonwealth appealed the suppression ruling 21 days later. The trial court reversed and Williams was ultimately convicted of all charges.
On appeal to the Superior Court, Williams argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear the Commonwealth’s appeal of the municipal court’s suppression order because Philadelphia Local Rule of Criminal Procedure 630(J) requires such an appeal to be filed within 15 days. The Commonwealth countered that it had 30 days to appeal under Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 1005(C) (“The Commonwealth’s appeal shall be taken not later than 30 days from the date of the decision on the pretrial application.”).
The unanimous Superior Court panel, led by Judge Mundy, agreed with the Commonwealth that Pa. R.Crim.P. 1005(C) controls. The Court began its analysis with Rule 1005(A), which frames the subject matter of the rule as “pretrial applications for relief.” The Court held that the Supreme Court intended for suppression motions to be included in the term “pretrial applications” for purposes of the entire rule, including subsection (C). Accordingly, the Court held that local rule 630(J) is void and unenforceable. As for the suppression issue, the Court concluded that it was not waived by Williams’ failure to seek a writ of certiorari to the trial court because the Commonwealth had already successfully appealed the same issue. Nevertheless, the Court found no merit to Williams’ Fourth Amendment challenge since the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion of a violation of the Vehicle Code.