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Recent Ruling from PA Supreme Court Could Bring Serious Changes to How DUI Cases Are Handled


6/20/2019

A recent ruling from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania could completely change the way DUI Cases are handled across Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia metro area. If you have pending DUI charges in Pennsylvania, you should contact a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney right away.

At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we stay up to date with developments in the law in order to provide our clients with knowledgeable legal representation. DUI charges carry severe penalties, so don’t leave your future in the hands of the prosecution. If you’ve been charged with DUI, Philadelphia DUI defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can help you get a fair outcome. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 215-712-1212 or send us an email to learn about how we can help you.

Commonwealth v. Perfetto

The case in question is Commonwealth v. Perfetto and was decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in April of this year. Mr. Perfetto was stopped by Philadelphia police in July of 2014 for driving at night without his headlights on. During the traffic stop, the police believed he was driving while under the influence. As a result, the police eventually cited him for the traffic violations, but Mr. Perfetto was also charged with DUI and arrested.

Different Charges in Different Courts

In Philadelphia, traffic charges are handled in traffic court, while criminal cases are handled in municipal court. As a result, Mr. Perfetto had cases in traffic court for his traffic violations, as well as his DUI case in the criminal division of the municipal court. Mr. Perfetto did not appear in traffic court and therefore was found guilty on those charges. Mr. Perfetto’s case took a more interesting turn when he went to trial on the DUI charge.

The DUI Charge

Despite failing to appear on the traffic violations, Mr. Perfetto did appear and defend himself on the DUI charge. He challenged the prosecution’s case by filing what is referred to as a “Rule 110 Motion.” Under Rule 110, you cannot be prosecuted more than once in the same court on charges that arose from the same incident. Because the traffic court is a division of the same municipal court that handled the DUI charge, Mr. Perfetto’s attorney argued that the two prosecutions violated Pennsylvania law. After hearing arguments from both sides, the trial court judge ruled in favor of Mr. Perfetto and dismissed the DUI charge.

Of course, the prosecution appealed the ruling. The Pennsylvania Superior Court disagreed with the trial court, holding that Rule 110 did not apply since the two charges must be heard in separate courts. As a result, the case was appealed by Mr. Perfetto to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted Mr. Perfetto’s appeal and ultimately ruled in his favor. His DUI charge was dismissed under final order with no opportunity for the prosecution to appeal the ruling.

The Consequences of Perfetto

As a result of the ruling, you cannot be tried for DUI if you were also cited for traffic infractions that have already been resolved. The case is likely to have profound consequences for law enforcement and how they handle DUI cases. Traffic cases tend to move much more quickly than DUI cases, meaning that the Perfetto case will bar prosecutors from proceeding on DUI charges if the traffic case is already finished.

In addition, many jurisdictions in Pennsylvania handle traffic cases and DUI cases in different divisions of the same municipal court, meaning that every time this will be an issue in every case where there are multiple charges in different divisions arising from the same incident.

Going forward, law enforcement officers may have to forgo issuing traffic violations in cases where they believe there is a DUI. Alternatively, prosecutors will have to figure out a way to either join the cases so that they are tried in the same court simultaneously or have the traffic case stayed pending the resolution of the DUI case. Another option would be to dismiss the traffic charges if they think they will proceed on the DUI charge. Ultimately, the ruling may require a legislative solution in order to avoid having DUI charges dismissed.

Double Jeopardy

On a positive note, the Perfetto case demonstrates that the constitutional protections against double jeopardy are still taken seriously. Rule 110 is essentially a Pennsylvania’s codification of your Fifth Amendment guarantee against being prosecuted for the same crime twice. In order to prevail on a Rule 110 motion, the defendant must prove the following:

  • The prior prosecution resulted in an acquittal or conviction.
  • The charges arose out of the same incident.
  • The prosecution was aware of all of the charges.
  • All of the charges were brought within the same jurisdiction.

The Value of Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Representation

The rights provided to us by the Constitution are the bedrock of our criminal justice system, and we all benefit when those rights are protected. Had it not been for his attorney, Mr. Perfetto would have likely been convicted in violation of his Constitutional rights. Instead, Mr. Perfetto’s DUI was dismissed, and he is able to move on with his life free from the negative consequences of a criminal conviction.

If You’re Facing DUI Charges, Call Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Lauren Wimmer

The Perfetto case illustrates that there is always hope despite what the prosecution wants you to believe. However, in order to get the results you deserve, you need a lawyer who is able to challenge not only the facts but the very law itself. You have rights that are guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and those rights are worth protecting. DUI defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer gives her clients tenacious, aggressive legal representation that is built on knowledge and experience. If you’d like to discuss how she can help you, contact us today for a free consultation by calling 215-712-1212.