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Commonwealth v. Cochran

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

January 20, 2021

In Commonwealth v. Cochran, at the beginning of his plea hearing, Cochran disputed whether he was responsible for the total restitution amount. Defense counsel requested a hearing to determine the proper restitution amount. The trial court granted the request and proceeded with the guilty plea colloquy. Cochran entered a plea of guilty to terroristic threats, simple assault, and criminal mischief. Following the entry of the plea, the trial court proceeded to the non-restitution aspects of sentencing and sentenced Cochran to an aggregate term of 3 to 23 months’ incarceration. Months later, at the restitution hearing, Cochran’s new counsel objected and argued that the trial the court lacked jurisdiction to enter a restitution order or amend the sentencing order because more than 30 days had passed since the sentencing order was filed. The Superior Court vacated the conviction and restitution order. First, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted that Cochran’s case’s circumstances were unique in that, at the time of sentencing, defense counsel agreed to proceed with sentencing but disputed the restitution amount and requested an additional hearing. The Supreme Court ruled then that the sentencing court conducted a segmented or bifurcated sentencing hearing, resulting in a complete and final order only after the restitution hearing. Therefore, the sentence was compliant with Section 1106 of the Judicial Code, and the issues raised by Cochran and addressed by the Superior Court were moot.

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