The prior acceptance of ARD and what that means for DUI mandatory sentences: What the Chichkin decision holds.

Two weeks ago, the Pennsylvania Superior Court handed down an opinion in a companion case that was out of Philadelphia.  The case—known now as the Chichkin case for the lead defendant—concluded that “prior acceptances of ARD cannot be categorized as ‘prior convictions’ exempt from the holding of Apprendi and Alleyne.”  What that means, and unpacking that holding, requires an appreciation … Read More

In the time of the coronavirus, is coughing or spitting on someone simple assault?

There’s been reports in recent days like this one—State police cite 2 people in Westmoreland County for ‘purposely coughing’ on workers—which raise the question of whether coughing or spitting on someone is enough to rise to the level of simple assault.  Under normal circumstances, the answer may generally be no, but we’re not living in normal circumstances, and the answer … Read More

Pa. Supreme Court’s October decisions: two on the application of Birchfield, and one the scope of liability under the concealed-carry statute.

Supreme Court Allocatur Grants 1. Comm. v. Ballentine, 379 MAL 2019 (Oct. 29, 2019) Whether, in light of Commonwealth v. Veon, 150 A.2d 435 (Pa. 2016), a sentence to pay restitution to a nonprofit corporation may be ordered when the underlying offense occurred prior to October 24, 2018, the effective date of the amendment to 18 Pa.C.S. § 1106. Supreme … Read More

Dissemination of sex offenders’ information over the Internet is unconstitutional: a bold decision that’s likely to be short-lived.

Comm. v. Moore, 2019 PA Super 320 (Oct. 23, 2019) Out of Mercer.  The Superior Court made a bold ruling in the ever-evolving jurisprudence of sex-offender registration.  The Court held “that the Internet dissemination provision of SORNA II violates the federal prohibition against ex post facto laws.”  Throughout its opinion, the Superior Court held that it was either relying on … Read More

Fines, restitution, and court costs have been a recent hot topic in Pennsylvania’s appellate courts.

Since September 24, 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and Superior Court have issued five published opinions dealing with the financial consequences defendants regularly face in the criminal-justice system, be it in the form of fines, restitution, or court costs.  To follow is a summary of the holdings from those case, some of which I’ve previously blogged about. Comm. v. Gary-Ravenell, … Read More

An accomplice’s and his girlfriend’s word to one officer can make up good probable cause for another officer to make a warrantless arrest. (And apparently the enforcement of plea agreements are excepted from the time constraints of the PCRA.)

Comm. v. Brogdon, 2019 PA Super 297 (Oct. 3, 2019) Out of Philadelphia County.  Brogdon was convicted at a bench trial of violations of the Uniform Firearms Act (i.e. person not to possess and carrying without a license), and he complained on appeal that the trial court should’ve granted his suppression motion.   The basis of Brogdon’s suppression was that … Read More

Abuse of discretion for dismissing charges when witnesses “on their way”; smell of marijuana still good PC; and a favorable opinion for the defense bar.

Comm. v. Ligon, 2019 PA Super 290 (Sept. 24, 2019) Out of Philadelphia.  This en banc decision was unanimous.  The Court held that the that trial court abused its discretion when it dismissed the underlying action due to the complaining witness’s absence from the start of trial. The case was an old case, originating in 2012, and it involved numerous … Read More

Pa. Supreme Court speaks to waiver/preservation issues, overbroad warrants, effect of bankruptcy on restitution, and ability-to-pay-fine determinations in a negotiated plea context

Supreme Court Allocatur Grants Comm. v. Alexander, 151 EAL 2019 (Sept. 24, 2019) In this case involving the warrantless search of a locked metal box in a car following the arrest of the driver, should not this court decide whether Commonwealth v. Gary, 91 A.3d 102 (Pa. 2014), should be overruled or limited as being inconsistent with privacy protections under … Read More

Separation-of-powers questions, lawfulness of mandatory-minimum under § 6111(h), and recurring evolutions with the Walker decision.

Supreme Court Allocatur Grant (9/10/19) Comm. v. Mason, 202 MAL 2019 Whether a babysitter has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the bedroom of a child she is caring for? Whether the sounds resulting from a child being forcibly thrown into a crib and being beaten by [Mason] constitute “oral communications” or “evidence derived therefrom” under the Pennsylvania wiretap statute? … Read More