Supreme Court of Pennsylvania: The Commonwealth may not prosecute other crimes after disposition of related summary charges.
Once the courts dispose of summary offenses, police cannot go forward on other charges from the same criminal episode. The Pennsylvania legislature’s double jeopardy and compulsory joinder rules stop the Commonwealth from prosecuting misdemeanor and felony charges after a verdict on related summary offenses.
In Philadelphia, police charged a man with driving without his lights on and three counts of driving under the influence. The Municipal Court found him guilty of driving without his lights. He, later, moved to dismiss his DUI charges because they were barred by the Pennsylvania double jeopardy rules. The trial court agreed and dismissed the charges. Commonwealth v. Perfetto, ___ A.3d ___, 7 EAP 2018 at pp. 4-6 (Pa. 2019).
The Commonwealth appealed. An en banc panel of the Superior Court reversed the trial court. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted the man’s petition for allowance of appeal. Id.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the trial court. It held that the double jeopardy rules prevented the Commonwealth from proceeding on the DUI case. It explained that the Commonwealth cannot proceed on the DUIs because (1) the court convicted the man of driving without lights, (2) both sets of charges—the DUI and the driving-without-lights cases—came from the same incident, (3) the prosecutor knew of both sets of charges, and (4) all of the charges happened in the same judicial district. Id. at 16.
While this case will have somewhat limited effect, it demonstrates the importance of a skilled defense lawyer. Without the lawyer’s identification and litigation of a nuanced issue, the man may have been tried in violation of Pennsylvania’s double jeopardy rules.
If you are facing criminal charges, it is critical that you have an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer in your corner. Call Pyfer Reese and ask to speak with Attorneys Daniel Bardo or Heather Adams.
~Daniel C. Bardo, Esquire