Costs of Prosecution for Resentencing under 16 P.S. § 1403
Commonwealth v. Davis, 207 A.3d 341 (Pa. Super. 2019), allocatur granted June 25, 2019, appeal docket 49 MAP 2019 (to be argued consecutively with Commonwealth v. Lehman involving a similar cost of prosecution issue)
The Supreme Court granted allocatur in this case to consider whether costs relating to sentencing, and costs relating to re-sentencing, constitute “costs of prosecution and trial” under 16 P.S. § 1403.
In 1980, when Charles Scott Davis was 15 years old, he shot and killed Roderick Kotchin. Following a jury trial, Davis was convicted of murder in the first degree, was sentenced to a mandatory term of life without parole, and was ordered to pay the costs of prosecution. Following U.S. Supreme Court decisions holding that mandatory life imprisonment without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments, the trial court resentenced Davis to 40 years to life in prison and ordered Davis to pay the costs of prosecution, including the costs of his resentencing. The trial court denied Davis’s post trial motions and Davis appealed to Superior Court. On appeal, Davis argued that the sentencing court imposed an illegal sentence by ordering him to pay the costs of prosecution associated with his resentencing because the costs imposed against him were not related to his “prosecution” under 16 P.S. § 1403.9, which provides:
§ 1403. Expenses incurred by district attorney
All necessary expenses incurred by the district attorney or his assistants or any office directed by him in the investigation of crime and the apprehension and prosecution of persons charged with or suspected of the commission of crime, upon approval thereof by the district attorney and the court, shall be paid by the county from the general funds of the county. In any case where a defendant is convicted and sentenced to pay the costs of prosecution and trial, the expenses of the district attorney in connection with such prosecution shall be considered a part of the costs of the case and be paid by the defendant.
Agreeing with Davis’s interpretation, Superior Court held that “prosecution” ends at the time of a conviction or acquittal, thus the trial court imposed an illegal sentence by ordering Davis to pay the costs relative to his resentencing, which occurred only after his sentence was deemed unconstitutional, reasoning:
While Section 1403 does not define “prosecution” or “costs of prosecution,” “[t]he term ‘prosecution’ [must] be read as synonymous with ‘conviction.’ ” Commonwealth v. Moran, 450 Pa.Super. 283, 675 A.2d 1269, 1272 (1996); see also id. (stating that 16 P.S. § 1403 “explicitly permits a District Attorney to be reimbursed for expenses incurred in prosecuting cases, with the proviso that the defendant be ‘convicted’ and the expenses have arisen ‘in connection with such prosecution.’ ”); Commonwealth v. Ramirez, 367 Pa.Super. 477, 533 A.2d 116, 118-19 (1987) (holding, in the context of determining when prosecutions are barred by former prosecutions under Section 111 of the Crimes Code, that the “prosecution” is completed when a defendant is acquitted or convicted). Further, Section 1403 makes no mention of sentencing or sentencing costs. Thus, because the purpose of imposing the costs of prosecution against the defendant is to reimburse the Commonwealth for the expenses incurred preparing a case for, and conducting, a trial, “prosecution” ends with the conviction or acquittal of the defendant. See Commonwealth v. Coder, 490 Pa. 194, 415 A.2d 406, 408 (1980) (stating that “[t]he purpose of [Section 1403] is to recoup the costs of trial where a jury finds the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt[.]”).
Here, the trial court resentenced Davis, in part, to pay costs that were purportedly incurred by the Commonwealth relative to Davis’s resentencing. See Court Commitment, 6/15/82, at 1 (unnumbered). As we have determined that, under 16 P.S. § 1403, “prosecution” ends at the time of a conviction or acquittal, the trial court imposed an illegal sentence by ordering Davis to pay the costs relative to his resentencing. Moreover, Davis’s resentencing, through no fault of his own, occurred only after his sentence was deemed unconstitutional, and he should not be liable for such costs. See generally Commonwealth v. Weaver, 76 A.3d 562, 574 (Pa. Super. 2013); Commonwealth v. Garzone, 993 A.2d 306, 318-20 (Pa. Super. 2010).
Slip op. at 7-8.
The Supreme Court granted allocatur to determine:
Whether costs relating to sentencing, and costs relating to re-sentencing, constitute “costs of prosecution and trial” under 16 P.S. § 1403?
As part of the courts’ ongoing Covid 19 response, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in this case via video conference: www.pacourts.us/courts/supreme-court/may-2020-supreme-court-session.