John Della Rocca
Recent PA Supreme Court Ruling Could Benefit Thousands of DUI Defendants
It’s a great time to be a DUI lawyer in Philadelphia! A recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court completely may change the way DUI Cases are handled across Pennsylvania and, in particular, Philadelphia. If you have pending DUI case, you should contact an experienced DUI attorney to discuss your case before it’s too late.
At the Law Office of John Della Rocca, we stay abreast of the latest developments in state and federal case law and criminal procedure. We aim to provide our clients with the most knowledgeable and effective representation. DUI is a serious offense. If convicted, you could spend time in jail, lose your license and pay costly fines. Don’t assume you will be convicted just because you are arrested. There are many ways to fight DUI cases. Call me for a free consultation.
Commonwealth v. Perfetto
In 2014, Mark Perfetto was stopped by Philadelphia police for driving at night without using his headlights. During the traffic stop, the police believed he was driving while under the influence. The police arrested Perfetto for Dui and also cited him for traffic violations.
Before Perfetto’s DUI case could be tried in Philadelphia Municipal Court, he was convicted of the aforementioned traffic citations in Traffic Court (a subdivision of Municipal Court). Perfetto thereafter filed a pre-trial Motion to Dismiss the DUI charge under Rule 110. Under Rule 110, a defendant cannot be prosecuted more than once in the same court on charges that arose from the same incident. Because Philadelphia Traffic Court is a division of the same Municipal Court that handles criminal matters and DUI cases, Perfetto argued that the two prosecutions violated Pennsylvania law. The trial court agreed and granted Perfetto’s Motion to Dismiss.
The DA appealed the dismissal to the Superior Court, which reversed the trial court’s ruling. Perfetto then appealed that decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In April of 2019, the Court issued its landmark ruling. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Superior Court and reinstated the trial court’s decision. In so doing, the Supreme Court found that all four elements of the compulsory joinder statute (Rule 110) had been met. First, the Court noted that Perfetto’s prosecution for his summary traffic offense resulted in a conviction. Next, the Court noted that the DUI charges arose from the same criminal episode as the summary traffic offenses. The Court also noted that the District Attorney was fully aware of Perfetto’s DUI charges before it commenced a trial (albeit in absentia) on the summary traffic offense. Finally, the Court found that Perfetto’s DUI occurred in the same judicial district as the summary traffic offense. The Court also ruled that the "court" for the purposes of the jurisdictional exception under the compulsory joinder statute was the Municipal Court as a whole, rather than the Traffic Court division.
Counties outside of Philadelphia tend to try everything (summary offenses and DUI charges arising from the same incident) at the Common Pleas Court level. Thus, those counties are less likely to run afoul of Rule 110. Philadelphia County, however, is different. In Philadelphia, traffic citations are tried in Traffic Court while DUI cases are tried in Municipal Court. This distinction is critical. If the DA “drops the ball” and prosecutes on the traffic citations before the DUI case is addressed…Game Over! Perfetto makes it clear that such a scenario is a Double Jeopardy violation under Rule 110.
Going forward, police officers in Philadelphia may have to forego issuing traffic violations in cases where they believe there is a DUI. Alternatively, prosecutors will need to follow cases more closely to make sure that either both the traffic citations and DUI cases are tried together or that the citations are withdrawn before the DUI case makes it to trial.
Don’t just hire any criminal defense attorney. Hire someone who eats, sleeps and breathes all things DUI related. If you’ve been charged with DUI, either in Philadelphia or its surrounding counties, call the Law Office of John Della Rocca.