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Commonwealth v. Small

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

October 1, 2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Small overruled its prior precedent and tossed the “public record presumption.” Traditionally, a defendant, who filed a PCRA petition, could circumvent the statutory one-year filing deadline by proving they had uncovered a newly-discovered fact. But if that newly-discovered fact was a matter of public record, then a presumption existed that the fact could not be deemed unknown. However — of course — there existed an exception to that presumption. A pro se prisoner was not presumed to have access to or know matters of public record because they lacked access to the public record. In Small, the Supreme Court held that the “public records presumption” is at odds with the statutory language and is expressly disavowed, making Mr. Small’s PCRA petition timely. The Court then reviewed the merits of his petition and dismissed it anyway.

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