Pa. Supreme Court opinions and allocatur grants (August ’19 – Pres.)

Comm. v. Foster, __ A.3d __ (Pa. Aug. 20, 2019) This was a discretionary appeal out of Philadelphia.  “The issue presented in this case asks for a determination of what constitutes a permissible basis for a court to find an individual in violation of probation.” The reasoning to follow by Justice Donohue gives a flavor for this case and why … Read More

Supreme Decisions: In-court IDs; Private Search Doctrine; alibi instructions; government interviews of trial counsel; evidentiary consequences for DUI blood refusals.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued some important decisions in the past two months in the realm of criminal law and procedure.  I detail the holdings of these opinions, note points of interest from the thoughtful concurrences/dissents filed, and offer some of my personal observations.   Comm. v. Santiago, __ A.3d __ (Pa., June 18, 2019) This was a 5-2 … Read More

Superior Court hears IAC claim in first instance, and expands on SCOTUS Carpenter case dealing with cell site location information (CSLI)

Comm. v. Shaw, 2019 PA Super 207 (July 3, 2019) Out of Delaware County.  This was an appeal from the denial of a post-conviction petition (PCRA).  The background can get a little convoluted, but here’s my best shot at summarizing the pertinent facts in plain English. Shaw was convicted of attempted murder and other felony offenses based upon some shaky … Read More

Back-and-forth under the Rape Shield Law, and double-jeopardy problems where there’s two sentences for one substance

Comm. v. Jerdon, 2019 PA Super 202 (July 1, 2019) Out of Delaware County.  This was a Commonwealth (interlocutory) appeal from a pretrial ruling in favor of the defendant, Jerdon.  Jerdon is on trial for sexual-assault accusations stemming from 1997 to 1999.  At that time Jerdon’s stepson had accused him of sexually touching the alleged victim in Jerdon’s bedroom.  The … Read More

Police syntax in a Fourth Amendment analysis, and trial courts wresting deadlocked charges from a jury

Comm. v. Luczki, 2019 PA Super 179 (June 7, 2019) Out of Allegheny County.  The Superior Court affirmed the trial judge’s denial of suppression, the circumstances of which involved a plain-clothes police officer, displaying his badge, saying to Appellant, “I need to speak with you,” after seeing him and his co-defendant engage in suspicious behavior in a high-crime area of … Read More

Corporate outlawry and “suspicion and conjecture.”

Comm. v. Pi Delta Psi, Inc., 2019 PA Super 167 (May 23, 2019). Out of Monroe County.  This was a rare criminal action against a corporate entity.  This fraternity had been criminally charged, along with its student members, related to the death of a freshman pledge who died as part of a hazing ritual.  This appeal involved 10 separate issues, … Read More

Supreme Decisions (October)

Comm. v. Valdivia, ___ A.3d ___ (Pa. 2018) Out of Centre County.  This case was about a consent search of a vehicle by a canine. The facts, briefly, were these. Valdivia was driving along I-80—a known drug corridor between Detroit and New Jersey—in a rented vehicle with out-of-state plates, and he was pulled over by two state troopers for a … Read More

Supreme Decisions (from September)

Comm. v. Peterson, 192 A.3d 1123 (Pa. 2018) Out of Crawford County.  The Supreme Court granted allowance to appeal to address one of the time-bar exceptions to the PCRA.  The gist of the case was this. Peterson had pled guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in 1993, and he was given two life sentences to run back-to-back.  Shortly after … Read More

SORNA registration beyond maximum limit of incarceration is legal

Comm. v. Strafford, 2018 PA Super 223 (Aug. 6, 2018) Out of Delaware County. The Superior Court addressed an issue of first impression: whether a lifetime registration requirement under SORNA, which exceeds the statutory maximums of convicted offenses, renders the sentence illegal.  The Superior Court held that such a lifetime registration does not render the sentence illegal. The Superior Court … Read More