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Pennsylvania Superior Court Quashes DUI Defendant’s Appeal For Lack of Jurisdiction

On July 22, 2015, a driver was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of a controlled substance. On April 15, 2016, he petitioned for acceptance into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. The Commonwealth approved his petition, and, on June 2, 2016, the trial court accepted him into the ARD program. On September 23, 2016, he filed a petition to remove himself from the ARD program. On November 30, 2016, the trial court held a hearing on his petition and denied the petition.

The driver raised one issue on appeal before the Superior Court of Pennsylvania:  whether the trial court erred by denying his petition to remove himself from the ARD program following his Pennsylvania drugged driving conviction.

The appeals court first ascertained whether the order was properly appealable. In general, the court’s jurisdiction “extends only to review of final orders.” A final order is defined as any order that:  (1) disposes of all claims and of all parties; (2) is explicitly defined as a final order by statute; or (3) is entered as a final order pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 341(c). With respect to criminal cases, the general rule is that a defendant may appeal only from a final judgment of sentence, and an appeal from any prior order or judgment will be quashed. The purpose of this rule is to prevent undue delay and avoid the disruption of criminal cases by piecemeal appellate review.

The driver was not convicted of any crime, and the trial court did not impose a judgment of sentence. Instead, he was charged with DUI, and the trial judge admitted him into an ARD program, pursuant to Pennsylvania’s ARD statute.

According to the ARD statute, a driver is not permitted to plead guilty prior to being accepted into the ARD program; the trial court postpones further proceedings on the charges until the driver is accepted into the ARD program. If the driver chooses to complete the program, he “may move the [trial] court for an order dismissing the charges;” if there are no objections to his motion to dismiss, the trial court must dismiss the charges, and, if no further objections are filed, the trial court must order the expungement of his arrest record. However, if the driver fails to complete the program or violates a condition of the program, the “[trial] court shall direct the attorney for the Commonwealth to proceed on the charges as prescribed in the Rules of Criminal Procedure,” and the driver cannot appeal from the trial court’s order terminating his participation in the program.

Given the unique nature of an order that accepts a defendant into an ARD program, the Pennsylvania Superior Court had previously held that acceptance of ARD is an interlocutory matter and consequently is not appealable. In accordance with precedent, the appeals court concluded that the trial court’s order denying the driver’s petition to remove himself from the ARD program was not a final order, since acceptance into — and termination of — the ARD program is an interlocutory matter. Therefore, the driver was appealing from an interlocutory determination of the trial court. While interlocutory orders are appealable in certain circumstances, the appeals court explained, none of those circumstances applied to the case at bar.

The challenged order was not defined as appealable as of right, the driver did not ask for or receive permission to appeal the interlocutory order, and he did not provide the court with any argument as to whether or how the order could satisfy the collateral order doctrine. Since it did not have jurisdiction, the court was required to quash the driver’s appeal.

Hiring the right attorney can make all of the difference in the world, even if your case seems straightforward or you have no criminal record.  If you find yourself arrested for a DUI, make sure you have a capable attorney on your side. Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Zachary B. Cooper will be aggressive and can fight to make sure that your rights are protected so that your family and you can move on with your lives. Call (215) 542-0800 for a free consultation to discuss the legal options that may be available to you.

More Blog Posts:

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.

Superior Court Holds Pennsylvania DUI Appellant Received a Prompt Trial, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, August 15, 2017.