Email or Call (215) 564-0644

    Pennsylvania PCRA Petitions in Murder Cases – The Importance of Timeliness

    Pennsylvania PCRA Law – Timeliness

    When an individual is considering their criminal appellate rights, especially for a Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition, the first issue that must be considered is timeliness, i.e., is the PCRA petition or appeal beyond the time limits allowed under Pennsylvania criminal law? In fact, the first question most defendants have is whether it is too late to file a PCRA petition in Pennsylvania. The answer depends on the facts and circumstances specific to each case.

    A PCRA petition is required to be filed within the 1 year time limit under 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 9545 (the Post Conviction Relief Act). Basically, a PCRA petition must be filed within 1 year of the date the underlying judgment becomes final. A judgment is deemed final “at the conclusion of direct review, including discretionary review in the Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, or at the expiration of time for seeking review.” See Section 9545(b)(3).

    There are some limited exceptions, such as governmental interference, newly discovered evidence and a newly recognized constitutional right. However, these exceptions are rather narrow, and rarely do the circumstances of a case meet one of the exceptions. Therefore, in most cases, including murder cases, the strict one year time deadline applies.

    More: PA Criminal Appeals Law – The Basics of Pennsylvania’s Post Conviction Relief Act Part 2

    Example of the PCRA Timeliness Requirement in a Pennsylvania Murder Case

    A recent Pennsylvania Superior Court reminds all criminal appeals lawyers of the importance of the 1 year time deadline for PCRA petitions. See Commonwealth v. Spann (May 26, 2015). There, the defendant was serving a life sentence for a conviction of 2nd degree murder in 1990. He filed a PCRA petition on October 18, 2012 which was dismissed as untimely by the PCRA court.

    On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme court refused to reach the underlying merits of the petition, finding that the petition was not timely. Essentially, the court found that the 1 year time limit expired roughly 18 years prior to the filing of the PCRA petition. Because the petition was filed pro se (without counsel), the court analyzed the petitioner’s claims to see if any of the exceptions to the timeliness requirement were met. Ultimately, the court found that none of the exceptions to the 1 year time limit applied and dismissed the appeal.

    Although the Spann case is non-precedential, it serves as a reminder of the importance of the timeliness requirement under Pennsylvania’s PCRA law.

    Philadelphia Criminal Appeals Law Firm – FREE CONSULTATIONS, CALL (215) 564-0644

    Disclaimer: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. Our lawyers provide legal advice only after accepting a case. It is imperative that any action taken is done on advice of counsel. Read full disclaimer below.

    David S. Nenner

    "Top Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer"

    Not guilty on 1st Degree MURDER CHARGE (dec. 2022, Pottsville, Pa)

    Mr. Nenner's client faced first degree murder, third degree murder and various other charges. The Commonwealth alleged that Mr. Whitted stabbed and killed a driver after an incident at a red light in West Brunswick Township. Throughout the trial, Mr. Nenner argued...

    MURDER, Att. Murder CHARGES – Negotiated Significantly Lower prison sentence (Feb. 2022, PHILA)

    Mr. Anderson faced murder and attempted murder charges after an incident in Northeast Philadelphia involving the shooting death of Anderson’s sister’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s roommate who was shot 5 times and survived. The decedent had previously beaten the...


    The Commonwealth alleged that Mr. Shelton shot and seriously injured a male in a bar in North Philadelphia called Circles. There was video of the shooting which happened outside the bar. However, Mr. Nenner presented witnesses who testified that the person in the bar...


    Mr. Nenner's client was charged with multiple crimes (murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault, robbery, etc.) after a shooting death occurred at a gambling house in North Philadelphia. At trial, Mr. Nenner successfully presented a self-defense argument and convinced...


    Mr. Nenner’s client was charged with murder and gun charges in Philadelphia. The client was accused of shooting and killing another male on Arch Street near the 5600 block of Ithan Street in Philadelphia. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty after deliberating...

    Drug Charges in Philadelphia PA State Court – Possession of a Controlled Substance

    In most criminal drug cases in Philadelphia, there are two common charges or offenses: Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver. In addition to these drug charges, there are other drug related charges, such...

    Drug Charges in Philadelphia PA State Court – What is “Possession”

    Page last reviewed and updated: October 20, 2019 One of the most common types of criminal state (PA) cases in Philadelphia is possession of drugs. Possession of a Controlled Substance (PCS) and Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver (PWID) often...

    Pennsylvania Second Degree Murder (AKA: Felony Murder) Law

    Philadelphia criminal lawyer David S. Nenner discusses the current status of second degree murder law in Pennsylvania. This is also known as the felony murder rule. Get info about PA court decisions and the agency theory. Not every case of death during the commission of a felony will result in a second degree murder conviction in PA.

    Philadelphia Murder Cases – Police Investigation Tactics

    Questioning Police Officer Tactics in Philadelphia Murder Cases Within the last 10 years, there have been several murder Philadelphia criminal cases in which the accused individuals were acquitted of the crimes. In these cases, the individuals spent months, if not...

    Murder Charges in Pennsylvania – Murder Law in Pennsylvania

    An explanation of Pennsylvania murder laws including Section 2502. What is murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree and murder in the third degree. Get a summary of the definitions under Pennsylvania criminal law.