Comm. v. Presher, 2018 PA Super 19 (Feb. 2, 2018)

This was an appeal out of Greene County.  The case is rather straightforward.

Presher had been charged with theft and receiving stolen property by way of a criminal complaint.  He was issued a summons to appear for his preliminary hearing, which he failed to appear for.  His charges, therefore, were held over for court, and he ultimately proceeded to trial, and he was acquitted of all charges by a jury.

After his acquittal, the Commonwealth requested that the trial court order Presher to be processed and fingerprinted since he had not been from the outset up to that point.  The trial court made such an order, reasoning that state law required fingerprinting under the circumstances and this requirement “cannot be circumvented by delay and later acquittal.”  The Superior Court disagreed.

The Superior Court noted that the part of the fingerprinting law at issue spoke in terms of “defendants,” and “the express terms of that [law] do not permit its application to fully acquitted persons, who are no longer ‘defendants’ within the meaning of the [law].”  The Superior Court emphasized that “[a]n acquittal constitutes ‘the strongest vindication possible under our criminal tradition, laws and procedures,’” and the application of the law to an acquitted party “stands in contravention” to this principle.

In sum: if a party was not fingerprinted prior to trial and then is later acquitted, the courts are powerless to compel fingerprinting after-the-fact.