A complex issue: Credit for time served.

In the past four days, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has issued two opinions that deal with the issue of how to award credit for time spent incarcerated before sentencing or resentencing. The one appeal is out of Erie County, and it concerns the issue of how time spent in custody should be allocated to either a parole detainer or new … Read More

The Important Role of Defense Counsel

This appeal was an appeal out of Allegheny County.  The issue in this case revolved around disparaging remarks made against defense counsel in a victim’s letter, which was sent to the sentencing judge for purposes of a resentencing hearing.  The specific remark that was at issue was this: Furthermore, [defense counsel] is lining his pockets with taxpayer dollars defending a … Read More

Authenticating social media evidence

This appeal was a Commonwealth appeal out of Erie County.  The opinion is a lengthy one, and it deals with an evidentiary issue of authentication of evidence.  Specifically, the question at issue was one of first impression: what proof is necessary to authenticate social media evidence, such as Facebook postings and communications? To get to the point, the Superior Court … Read More

Comm. v. Fitzpatrick, 2018 PA Super 55 (Mar. 14, 2018)

This appeal was an appeal out of Philadelphia.  On August 14, 2015, a judgment of sentence had been entered against Fitzpatrick after a jury had convicted him of first-degree murder and third-degree murder of an unborn child.  Fitzpatrick had provided two signed statements to police admitting that he had shot Tiffany Gillespie in the head. Before trial, Fitzpatrick challenged his … Read More

It’s hard to get post-conviction relief.

Appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief (or PCRA petitions) consume a majority of the Superior Court’s docket.  The disposition of the majority of these appeals generally are unfavorable to the appellant and occur by way of an unpublished memorandum opinion, which has no precedential value. Over the course of the past couple of days, from March 14 to  March … Read More

False ID Law Requirements

This appeal was heard en banc and arose out of Philadelphia.  The appeal focuses on the interpretation of the law defining “false identification to law enforcement,” 18 Pa.C.S. § 4914.  That law reads as follows: A person commits an offense if he furnishes law enforcement with false information about his identity after being informed by a law enforcement officer who … Read More

The Benefit of Deferring Probation Revocation Hearings

This was an appeal out of Adams County. On appeal, Moriarty asserted that his attorney rendered ineffective assistance because of the advice he provided pertaining to a probation-revocation hearing.  These are the facts. In 2014, Moriarty had previously pled to certain crimes for which he was sentenced to 1-to-23 months less a day (a county sentence), plus 12 months probation.  … Read More

When Are You An “Inmate”?

This was an appeal out of Warren County.  The facts are pretty straightforward. Cornelius was arrested on a parole violation at his apartment.  At the time he was wearing shorts with a baggie of methamphetamine sewn into the fabric.  He was searched incident to arrest, and he was advised to turn over any contraband that may have been missed during … Read More

Overdose Self-Reporters:Immune From Prosecution

This was an appeal out of Dauphin County.  The sole issue on appeal was over the interpretation of the Drug Overdose Response Immunity statute, 35 P.S. § 780-113.7.  That statute provides immunity from prosecution for certain crimes when a person has a reasonable belief someone is suffering from an overdose and contacts local authorities.  In relevant part, the statute reads … Read More

Comm. v. Kehr, 2018 PA Super 44 (Feb. 28, 2018)

This was an appeal out of York County.  The Superior Court considered if a change in the law, after a defendant pleads guilty and is sentenced, permits for the defendant to withdraw their plea. In this instance, the change in the law that was at issue was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in North Dakota v. Birchfield, ___ U.S. ___, … Read More