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Pennsylvania Superior Court Holds Appellant’s Prior Traffic Court Conviction Did Not Bar Subsequent Conviction Under Compulsory Joinder Rule

A driver appealed from a judgment of sentence imposed after the trial court’s denial of his petition for a writ of certiorari challenging his conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol and a combination of drugs. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the appellant’s Pennsylvania DUI conviction.

In December 2013, officers arrested the appellant and subsequently charged him with DUI, as well as summary traffic offenses, including driving with a suspended license and disregarding a steady red light. On March 7, 2014, the appellant was found guilty of both summary offenses in traffic court; the DUI charge was not adjudicated on that date. On March 10, 2014, the appellant filed a summary appeal of the driving with a suspended license charge.

In May 2014, the appellant moved to dismiss the DUI charge in municipal court, arguing that the Commonwealth was barred from prosecuting him under the compulsory joinder provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. § 110(1)(ii) because he was previously prosecuted for and convicted of two traffic violations in the traffic division. The judge denied the appellant’s motion. The appellant additionally argued a motion to suppress any statements made and the blood test results under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article One, Section Eight of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The judge denied the appellant’s motion to suppress and subsequently found the appellant guilty solely of DUI, combination of drugs. Later that month, the appellant’s summary appeal of driving with a suspended license was granted, and the charge was withdrawn by the Commonwealth.

In June 2016, the trial court sentenced the appellant to a term of not less than 90 nor more than 180 days’ incarceration in county prison. The appellant timely appealed and filed a court-ordered concise statement of errors complained of on appeal. The appellant alleged for the first time, in his concise statement, that his blood test results should be suppressed because his consent to the blood draw was involuntary, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2016 holding in Birchfield v. North Dakota. The trial court entered an opinion in October 2016, in which it stated that the appellant waived this issue regarding the voluntariness of the blood draw.

On appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the appellant raised two issues for review:  (1) whether the trial court erred when it denied the appellant’s motion to dismiss when the criminal court found the appellant guilty of DUI after the traffic court had already found him guilty of related traffic charges on an earlier date, in violation of Rule 110(1)(ii)‘s prohibition against multiple convictions for the same behavior; and (2) whether the trial court erred in denying a new trial in light of Birchfield because the appellant’s consent to draw blood was never voluntary under the totality of the circumstances, and therefore the results of the blood test should not have been admissible at trial against him.

The appeals court first disagreed with the appellant’s contention that under the compulsory joinder statute, his conviction for summary offenses before the traffic court precluded the subsequent prosecution of the DUI charges in the municipal court. The court relied on its recent decision addressing a similar issue and concluding that a prior summary conviction before the traffic court did not bar subsequent prosecution of more serious offenses under the compulsory joinder rule. Therefore, the court concluded that the appellant’s first challenge lacked merit.

The court also disagreed with the appellant’s Birchfield claim. The court first explained that Birchfield was decided on June 23, 2016, shortly after the appellant’s sentencing and before he filed this direct appeal. The court had also recently addressed a similar issue and held that the appellant waived the issue when he raised the voluntariness claim for the first time on appeal.

For these reasons, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the appellant’s judgment of sentence.

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More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Superior Court Denies DUI Defendant Post-Conviction Relief, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, October 18, 2017

Pennsylvania Superior Court Denies DUI Defendant Post-Conviction Relief, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, September 15, 2017.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Upholds DUI Defendant’s License Suspension, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, September 1, 2017.