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Commonwealth v. Atkinson

Pennsylvania Superior Court

February 8, 2021

Commonwealth v. Atkinson involved an appeal from a trial court’s order denying a motion to dismiss based on the principles of compulsory joinder, 18 Pa.C.S. § 110. In 2013, Atkinson was arrested and charged with DUI and a summary violation of the Motor Vehicle Code (MVC). Two months later, she was found guilty of the MVC offense in the now-eliminated Traffic Court of Philadelphia. The Commonwealth continued its prosecution of the DUI offense in Philadelphia Municipal Court. In August 2015, Atkinson filed a motion to dismiss the DUI offense, pursuant to the compulsory joinder rule. The Municipal Court denied the motion to dismiss. An en banc panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed, ruling that Atkinson’s case was distinguishable from Commonwealth v. Perfetto, 207 A.3d 812 (Pa. 2019). The Court held that, unlike in Perfetto, at the time Atkinson was prosecuted and found guilty of the summary offense, neither the Traffic Division nor the General Division of the Municipal Court existed. Thus, when Atkinson was tried on the summary offense, the Commonwealth could not have also adjudicated her on the DUI in Traffic Court, which had exclusive jurisdiction over MVC violations. Similarly, the Commonwealth could not have tried Atkinson’s summary traffic offense in Philadelphia Municipal Court.

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