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Pennsylvania Court Discusses Dismissal of DUI Charges Due to Violation of Compulsory Joinder Law

The Pennsylvania and Federal constitutions protect a person from being tried or convicted more than once for the same crime. Similarly, Pennsylvania law requires that all charges arising out of a single criminal episode must be joined and tried at the same time. Thus, if the Commonwealth violates the law and tries a defendant for only one of several crimes arising out of an incident, the remaining charges should be dismissed. In other words, if a defendant is charged with a DUI and other traffic violations, but the court holds a hearing on the traffic violation without considering the DUI charges, the DUI charges must be dismissed. The specifics of this rule of law were explained by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in a recent case in which the defendant moved to dismiss his DUI charges following a conviction for a traffic violation arising out of the same incident. If you are charged with a DUI, it is important to speak with a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assess what defenses you may be able to assert.

Procedural Background

It is alleged that the defendant was arrested in August 2014 following a traffic stop and charged with driving with a suspended license and DUI offenses. He was also issued a citation for operating a vehicle without a license. The municipal court subsequently held a hearing on the traffic violation. The defendant was not present for the hearing and was found guilty in absentia. He then filed a motion to dismiss the remaining charges against him, arguing that allowing him to be tried on the DUI charges would violate both the Pennsylvania and Federal protections against double jeopardy and  Pennsylvania’s compulsory joinder law. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, after which he appealed. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed. Following an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the matter was remanded back to the Superior Court for a ruling in accordance with recent rulings.

Pennsylvania Law Requiring Compulsory Joinder

Under Pennsylvania law, if a person is charged with more than one offense arising out of the same conduct or criminal episode, a prosecution for one offense bars prosecution for the remaining offenses. Thus, all charges arising out of the same DUI arrest must be joined for purposes of trial. The court stated that a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed that all charges that arise out of a solitary criminal episode must be tried together. Thus, the court vacated the trial court’s order dismissing the defendant’s motion and ordered the remaining charges against the defendant to be dismissed.

Meet with a Knowledgeable DUI Defense Attorney

If you are a resident of Pennsylvania currently charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to meet with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your available defenses. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a zealous attorney who will work tirelessly on your behalf to provide you with a strong chance for obtaining the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. Mr. Cooper can be reached through the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to schedule a confidential and free meeting.