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

The Rule of Completeness: An assist from the bench

Comm. v. Thomas, 2018 PA Super 221 (Aug. 3, 2018) Out of Philadelphia County. Thomas was convicted of first-degree murder.  Three issues were raised in this appeal, but only one was of particular note that caught my attention.  It dealt with what is referred to as the “Rule of Completeness,” which is an evidentiary concept tied up in Rule 106 … Read More

Tipsters more reliable when they provide self-incriminating details

Comm. v. Butler, 2018 PA Super 219 (Aug. 1, 2018) Out of Bucks County.  Butler was convicted of drug-related offenses, namely possession with intent to deliver (PWID).  He raised a single issue on appeal: whether the police had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigative detention?  The Superior Court, like the trial court, held that there was reasonable suspicion. Essentially, the … Read More

The July Batch (so far) from the Superior Court

The Superior Court has issued seven precedential opinions this month.  Straying from my usual summaries, I intend only to provide the holdings and other pertinent points and, of course, my commentary when I believe it necessary.  This will then get this blog up to speed.  But that said, given the time involved with these posts, from here on out it’s … Read More

Withdrawal of Guilty Pleas, Double Jeopardy, and DUI Sentencing

Comm. v. Davis, 2018 PA Super 180 (June 22, 2018) Out of Lehigh County. This case is about an attempt to withdraw a guilty plea made under a plea agreement for a sentence not to exceed 38 months incarceration.  The underlying charges were for possession with intent to deliver (PWID) among other things. The appellant, Davis, appeared on the day … Read More

Confidential Informants, Prosecutorial Misconduct, and Traffic Stops (some aided by the “Find My iPhone” App)

Comm. v. Koonce, 2018 PA Super 169 (June 15, 2018) Out of Montgomery County.  Koonce was convicted following a stipulated non-jury trial of possession with intent to deliver.  Pre-trial he filed a motions to suppress evidence and to produce a confidential information used to build the case against him.  The trial court denied these motions.  He was subsequently convicted. Really … Read More