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Pennsylvania Court Explains Compulsory Joinder in DUI Cases

When the police stop people for suspicion of DUI, it is often due to erratic driving. Thus, it is not uncommon for a person charged with a DUI crime to face charges for other offenses, like careless driving. Pursuant to Pennsylvania law, a person must generally be tried for all crimes arising out of a single incident at one time, and if they are not, they may be able to get some of the charges against them dismissed. This was demonstrated recently in a Pennsylvania ruling in which the court ultimately dismissed DUI charges against a defendant, finding the Commonwealth was barred from prosecuting him under the compulsory joinder rule. If you are accused of a DUI crime, it is advisable to meet with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer to determine your potential defenses.

The History of the Case

Reportedly, the police arrested the defendant during a traffic stop in Philadelphia and charged him with a misdemeanor DUI offense and a summary careless driving offense. The defendant pleaded guilty to the summary offense in January 2014, and in October 2014, proceeded to trial for the DUI charge. He was found guilty of DUI, after which he filed a motion for a trial de novo. He then moved to dismiss the charge pursuant to Pennsylvania’s compulsory joinder rule. The court denied his motion, and he appealed.

Compulsory Joinder in DUI Cases

On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court erred in denying his motion to dismiss because he was previously convicted for an offense that arose out of the same criminal episode as the DUI offense. The Commonwealth’s defense rested on the argument that the defendant waived his right to object to his DUI prosecution when he failed to assert the compulsory joinder defense at his initial DUI proceedings.

The appellate court ultimately rejected the Commonwealth’s assertions and ruled in favor of the defendant. The court explained that a party must object to errors at the earliest possible stage of proceedings, and the failure to do so will result in a waiver. Further, it is well-established that claims regarding the compulsory joinder rule may be waived. The court explained, though, that findings of waiver are disfavored unless the defendant has taken an affirmative action to divide the prosecutions against them, and the mere silence of a defendant is inadequate to show a waiver of the right to compulsory joinder.

The court then turned to the merits of the appeal and agreed with the defendant that the compulsory joinder rule barred his prosecution for the DUI offense. Specifically, if a defendant is acquitted or convicted of an offense, the Commonwealth is barred from prosecuting the defendant on other charges arising from the same criminal episode. As the appellate court found that the compulsory joinder rule applied, it reversed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Trusted Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

A conviction for a DUI offense can lead to significant criminal and civil penalties, but there are often defenses DUI defendants can assert to avoid convictions. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney about your options for seeking a favorable outcome. Zachary B. Cooper is a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer who is proficient at helping people charged with DUI crimes retain their liberties, and if you engage his services, he will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Cooper via the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a meeting.