When a person is on probation or county parole in Philadelphia and is arrested, that person often will have a difficult decision to make. A related consideration is that because the Philadelphia Probation Department in most instances will lodge a “detainer” on a person on probation who has a new arrest, that person may regretfully have to make such a decision from jail.
The question that arises for a person having to deal with such a burden is, "Should I “701 consolidate” my cases? More specifically, should I "bring" my open Philadelphia criminal court case(s) to a Municipal Court or Common Pleas Court VOP for resolution?
The person on probation or parole and facing the new criminal case is the “defendant.” When a defendant is faced with such circumstances, Rule 701 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure must be considered.
What is Rule 701 of Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure?
Rule 701 (Pa.R.Crim.P.) provides as follows:
Rule 701 - Pleas of Guilty to Multiple Offenses
- Before the imposition of a sentence, the defendant may plead guilty to other offenses that the defendant committed within the jurisdiction of the sentencing court.
- When such pleas are accepted, the court shall sentence the defendant for all the offenses.
Comment: The objective of Rule 701 is to enable “consolidation” of all outstanding charges within the jurisdiction of the sentencing court for sentencing at one time.
The “701 Consolidation” in Philadelphia Municipal Court and the Court of Common Pleas
A “701 Consolidation” of an open Philadelphia Municipal Court case(s) to a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court or Municipal Court Violation of Probation (VOP) hearing (or prospective hearing) can in many instances be helpful for defendants – particularly defendants in custody – who have a VOP judge that is a fair sentencer, where the violation of probation has a listing date in the near future where there are no trial issues, and where the VOP Judge might release the defendant sooner under a Rule 701 consolidation than if the defendant was convicted in Philadelphia Municipal Court.
For defendants on bail in Philadelphia, a 701 consolidation is most helpful when the open Philadelphia Municipal Court case is consolidated to a judge whom it would be believed would either continue the defendant's probation and/or order a rehabilitation program, and where there are no realistic trial issues in the defendant's favor on the open Municipal Court case and/or the chance of the open Municipal Court case being dismissed for “lack of prosecution” (“DLOP”) is unlikely.
What factors should be considered when deciding whether to "701 consolidate" a case in Philadelphia?
There are several key factors that a defendant and his or her defense attorney must consider when deciding whether to consolidate an open Philadelphia Municipal Court cases (or cases) to a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court or Municipal Court violation of probation (VOP) hearing. These factors are as follows:
- Is the defendant in jail?
- Is the violation of probation (VOP) hearing listed in the near future?
- Who is the defendant's VOP judge (also known as the “back” judge)?
- What is the VOP judge's reputation on VOP sentences and on 701 consolidations?
- Are there trial issues in the defendant's favor on the open Municipal Court case?
- Is there a realistic chance for the open Municipal Court case to be dismissed for a lack of prosecution (DLOP)?
- How many prior violations of probation (VOP's) does the defendant have?
- Are there any other relevant sentencing equities? Issues?
Do I have to plead guilty to the new Philadelphia case if I "701 consolidate" my cases?
An effective defense attorney will advise the defendant charged with a new Philadelphia case that the defendant may have to plead guilty to the new case at the time of the 701 consolidation (rather than resolving the case by way of “stipulated trial”).
The criminal defense attorney should try to negotiate the sentence and grade of offense(s) on the new charge(s) with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office prior to or at the time of the 701 consolidation.
A defense attorney must remember that a Philadelphia 701 consolidation requires the balancing of many factors and cannot be done at the bar of the Court or on the “spur of the moment” in a high-volume Philadelphia Municipal Court “list” room. Before requesting a 701 consolidation, the Municipal Court defense attorney must balance all of the above factors and fully explain to the defendant his or her options.
Lastly, no defense attorney should 701 consolidate a case to a Philadelphia Common Pleas or Municipal Court VOP judge without first knowing that judge's experience as a VOP sentencer and with 701 Consolidations with VOP's.