Commonwealth v. Lopez

In Commonwealth v. Lopez, an en banc panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that Rule 706(C) of the Rules of Criminal Procedure only requires a sentencing court to hold an ability-to-pay hearing when a defendant faces incarceration for failure to pay court costs previously imposed on him. A sentencing court is not required to conduct … Read more

Commonwealth v. Bennett

In Commonwealth v. Bennett, the Pennsylvania Superior Court disavowed the defendant’s “gamesmanship” employed to use the compulsory-joinder rule, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 110, as a bar to further prosecution. The defendant was stopped for traffic violations, and a subsequent search of the car uncovered a gun. He was cited for the traffic violations and charged criminally … Read more

State v. Sims

The Appellate Division dealt with two important constitutional issues in State v. Sims. First, the Court was asked to determine whether police officers were required to inform the defendant of the charges he was arrested for, even if no charges had yet to be formally filed. Relying on the New Jersey Supreme Court’s holdings in … Read more

Commonwealth v. Leone

In Commonwealth v. Leone, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the defendant’s designation as a sexually violent predator (SVP) was constitutional. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court previously held in Commonwealth v. Butler, 226 A.3d 972 (Pa. 2020), that the mechanism by which defendants are determined to be SVPs is constitutional.

Commonwealth v. Mojica

In Commonwealth v. Mojica, the defendant filed a pro se PCRA petition after he was convicted, but before sentencing, and while he was still represented by counsel. In the petition, he made sufficiency and weight claims. The PCRA court ignored the pro se petition and sentenced the defendant. The Pennsylvania Superior Court noted that it … Read more

Commonwealth v. Davis

In Commonwealth v. Davis, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reviewed the process by which prosecuting authorities can refile criminal charges pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 544. In Davis, after a preliminary hearing, a magisterial district judge dismissed charges. The Commonwealth sought to refile the complaint but went to a different MDJ to do so. Then the case proceeded … Read more

McMichael v. McMichael

In McMichael v. McMichael, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave quality primers on the difference between a survival action and a wrongful death action as well as the difference between economic and non-economic damages. In this wrongful death and survival action, the jury awarded the decedent’s surviving spouse zero dollars in damages — economic and non-economic … Read more

Commonwealth v. Betts

In Commonwealth v. Betts, the Superior Court set forth the proper procedure for criminal defendants who wish to allege that their attorneys rendered ineffective assistance of counsel during PCRA proceedings in the Courts of Common Pleas. Defendants are obliged to raise their claims in response to the lower courts’ notice of intent to dismiss pursuant … Read more

In re Z.S.

The Appellate Division in In re Z.S. vacated the family court’s order, which waived jurisdiction and directed that 17-year-old Z.S. be prosecuted as an adult on charges under the Jessica Lunsford Act.  The Appellate Division found that the prosecutor’s statement of reasons was “materially deficient.” Importantly, the juvenile was functioning cognitively as a 13-year-old and was deemed developmentally … Read more

Commonwealth v. McClelland

Bill Clinton made us all ask what the definition of “is” is. In Commonwealth v. McClelland, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court debated the meaning of “any,” overruled Commonwealth v. Ricker, and held that the Commonwealth may not establish a prima facie case at a preliminary hearing with hearsay alone.