Email or Call (215) 564-0644

    Pennsylvania PCRA Law: What is the time deadline to file a PCRA petition?

    One of the most common questions a criminal defendant in Pennsylvania has is “how long do I have to file a PCRA petition?” The answer varies and depends on the specific facts of the case and therefore, the following legal discussion is for information only. To see if your PCRA petition or appeal is time-barred, you must speak to a criminal appellate lawyer immediately. Call our office for a free consultation. (215) 564-0644

    Related: Legal Analysis of Pennsylvania’s Post-Conviction Relief Act, Section 9543

    Legal Analysis – Time to File a PCRA Petition in Pennsylvania

    Under the Pennsylvania Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), a citizen of Pennsylvania who has been convicted of a crime in this state may attack their conviction or sentence. However, there is a strict 1 year deadline. Subsections (b)(1) and (b)(4) clearly indicate that the 1 year clock starts ticking after the judgment becomes final or at the conclusion of direct review (i.e., the order being appealed is entered by the court clerk).

    Exceptions to the 1 Year Time Limitation

    There are three limited exceptions to the 1 year time limitation:

    • governmental interference,
    • newly discovered evidence or facts, and
    • a newly recognized constitutional right.

    Government Inference (Brady Violations)

    Claims of governmental interference are rarely upheld as reasonable grounds to grant relief in a PCRA petition. Claims of governmental interference usually involves allegations that the government (District Attorney) withheld information; these claims are commonly called Brady violations.

    In order to prove a Brady violation, the defendant must establish that the prosecution suppressed exculpatory or impeachment evidence that was favorable to the defendant’s case, and that the omission of the evidence resulted in actual prejudice (i.e., would have made a difference in the outcome). In addition, there is no Brady violation if the parties (prosecution and defense) had equal access to the information, or if the defendant knew or could have uncovered such evidence with reasonable diligence. Withholding documents may qualify under this exception. However, the defendant and the defendant’s lawyer must not have, by exercise of due diligence, discovered them or otherwise known about them.

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

    Newly Discovered Evidence

    In order to succeed in getting over the time limits of the PCRA on the basis of newly discovered evidence, the defendant must be able to show the following:

    • the evidence was not available at trial despite the exercise of due diligence,
    • the evidence is exculpatory, and
    • the outcome of the trial would have been different had the evidence been presented.

    Click here to learn more about newly discovered evidence and PCRA in PA.

    Newly Recognized Constitutional Right

    Claims based on a newly recognized constitutional right are few and far between. As a general rule, state and federal courts do not make major changes to criminal constitutional law, let alone do courts make such changes retroactive (i.e., applies to cases that have already concluded).

    60 Day Window

    If a defendant whose PCRA petition is untimely has sufficient facts to support one of the exceptions discussed above, the petition must be filed within 60 days from the date the claim could have been presented (i.e., when the defendant learned of the facts supporting the exception). In addition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has made it clear that the 60 day rule requires the defendant to plead and prove that the evidence/facts could not have been obtained earlier.

    Help Filing a PCRA Petition or Appeal in PA – Free Consultation

    If you or a loved one needs help filing an appeal or PCRA petition in Pennsylvania, please contact our office for a free case assessment. Our criminal defense lawyers are experienced trial and appellate lawyers who will leave no stone unturned. (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"

    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 Possession Case – Motion to Suppress Granted

    Mr. Nenner presented evidence that to show that the traffic stop was a pretextual stop. The officer had no reason to pull the car over. The judge agreed and suppressed the evidence. As a result, the prosecution withdrew the charges.

    Sentencing for 1st Degree Murder in PA

    In this article below we discuss sentencing for 1st degree murder cases in Pennsylvania. In later articles, we will discuss sentencing for 2nd and 3rd degree murder cases. If you or a loved one is facing murder charges in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties,...

    Philadelphia Criminal Trials – Evidence Pointing to Another Perpetrator in Drug Possession or Drug Manufacture Cases

    In criminal trials in Philadelphia, one pretty common defense tactic is pointing the finger at another person at trial. This can raise enough doubt to result in a not guilty verdict by the judge or jury that the defendant was not the perpetrator of the crime. Here’s...

    Philadelphia Murder & Gun Possession Cases Increasing in 2021 – A Look at Common Charges & Defenses

    A look at PA criminal law for Murder (1st, 2nd, 3rd Degree), Aggravated Assault, Robbery, Possession of a Firearm, Carrying a Firearm Without a License, Carrying a Firearm in Philadelphia (misdemeanor).

    Pennsylvania Murder Charges, Deceased Person’s Statements Used to Prove Guilt

    Defense Trial Strategies – Excluding Statements That Accuse the Defendant Prosecutors often look to a deceased individual’s statements made prior to a murder to show that the defendant is guilty. These statements may point to a history of violence between the deceased...

    Pennsylvania (State) Drug Charges, Dog Sniffs & Constitutional Law

    Federal and Pennsylvania state courts treat narcotics dog searches differently. So different that the same scenario could result in different outcomes in federal versus state court. For example, a Philadelphia resident is pulled over for speeding. During the traffic...