Commonwealth v. Willard Oakley Moser 2010 PA Super 119 (7/08/2010)

Topic: Evidence of Prior Trials in Current Cases

Summary: Under Pa.R.E. 410(a)(2), evidence of a prior nolo contendere plea is inadmissible in any future criminal proceedings.


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Commonwealth v. Christopher Doty  2010 PA Super 105 (06/09/2010)

Topic: Fugitive Status – Waiver v. Forfeiture of Appellate Rights Challenging an Illegal Sentence

Summary: When a defendant becomes a fugitive from justice during the appellate period, he may forfeit his right to pursue an appellate review.  This forfeiture applies to issues that cannot be waived, like the legality of the sentence.


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Commonwealth v. Joseph Abraham  2010 PA Super 104 (6/08/2010)

Topic: Ineffective Assistance of CounselPCRA – Collateral Consequences

Summary: In view of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Padilla v. Kentucky, the fact that a consequence of a conviction is a collateral one will not protect an attorney from an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.  To be effective, an attorney must inform his client of any consequences when the “consequences in question are succinct, clear, and distinct….”  Also, an attorney will be found to be ineffective if she fails to give “good advice about a serious consequence.”


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BriefLaw: Commonwealth v. Rodriguez

Published on 31 January 2010 by in Blog


Commonwealth v. Lenora Rodriguez 2010 PA Super 14 (1/29/2010)

Topic: Retail Theft – Intent Element of the Offense

Summary: To convict a defendant of Retail Theft, the Commonwealth must prove that she had intent to permanently deprive the store of the merchandise.

Illustration: Defendant was accused of taking a portable stereo from the electronics department of a Walmart store to the customer service desk of the same store.  At the customer service desk, Defendant asked to return the stereo.  The Superior Court concluded that, while Defendant’s actions may have shown her intent to deprive Walmart of cash, it did not show that she intended to deprive the store of the stereo.  Therefore, the evidence did not support a conviction for retail theft.

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BriefLaw: Commonwealth v. Young

Published on 11 January 2010 by in Blog


Commonwealth v. Gaylend L. Young 2010 PA Super 2 (1/06/2010)

Topic: Admissibility of  Evidence of Prior Crime When Defendant is Acquitted – Prior Bad Acts

Summary: Under Pa.R.E. 404, the Commonwealth may admit evidence of a previous crime as a prior bad act even where the defendant was acquitted in the prior trial (The evidence of prior crimes challenged in this case were confessions by the defendant).


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BriefLaw: Commonwealth v. Wyland

Published on 11 January 2010 by in Blog


Commonwealth v. John W. Wyland 2010 PA Super 1 (1/05/2010)

Topic: DUI – Motor Vehicle Stops – Trafficways

Summary: A road on a highly-secured military base is not a trafficway under the Motor Vehicle Code.


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BriefLaw: Commonwealth v. Brian Hughes

Published on 17 December 2009 by in Blog


Commonwealth v. Brian Hughes 2009 PA Super 240 (12/14/2009)

Topic: Forgery – Grading – Cashier’s Checks

Summary:  The Superior Court concluded that a cashier’s check, unlike a personal check, is not a commercial instrument.  Therefore, forging a cashier’s check is a second-degree felony.

*Note: In his Dissenting Opinion, Judge Fitzgerald concludes that a cashier’s check is not an “issue of money,” but a commercial instrument.


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BriefLaw: Commonwealth v. Richard Thomas

Published on 17 December 2009 by in Blog


Commonwealth v. Richard Thomas 2009 PA Super 245 (12/16/2009)

Topic: Gun Crimes – Persons Not to Possess a Firearm – Operability of the Firearm

Summary: Under 18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 6105, the firearm does not need to be operable for a defendant to be convicted of Persons Not to Possess.


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BriefLaw: Commonwealth v. Au

Published on 01 December 2009 by in Blog


Commonwealth v. John Au  2009 PA Super 231 (12/01/2009)

Topic: Suppression of Evidence – Mere Encounter vs. Investigative Detention

Summary: Where an officer approaches a vehicle to see if the occupants are in need of help, the mere encounter is transformed to an investigative detention when the officer persists in asking questions after he has received information showing the occupants are not in need of help.

Illustration: The defendant was in a vehicle in public parking lot hours after the establishment at which he was parked had closed. The officer claimed that he approached the vehicle to determine whether the occupants needed any help.  After approaching the vehicle, the officer asked the occupants what they were doing.  The occupants responded that they were just hanging out.  At that point, the officer asked for identification.  Judge Bender concluded that, while the approach and question about what the occupants were doing was a mere encounter, the incident became an investigative detention when the officer asked for identification.

Judge Bender aptly noted (emphasis added),

While a person in Appellee’s situation may have surmised that the officer initiated the encounter to merely check upon the vehicle and its occupants, the subsequent request for identification from all of the vehicle’s occupants would have signaled to any reasonable person that the officer was unsatisfied with the response that the occupants were just hanging out, and that the officer wanted to investigate further. Knowing that the officer sought to investigate further and that this was no longer a situation where the officer was just checking in to see if the occupants were in need of assistance, no reasonable person would have felt free to terminate the encounter.


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BriefLaw: Commonwealth v. Rowe

Published on 16 November 2009 by in Blog


Commonwealth v. Collin Rowe 2009 PA Super 215 (11/12/2009)

Topic: Warrantless Entry – Motion to Suppress

Summary: A police officer must be able to identify exigent circumstances to justify a warrantless entry into a home.  An open door during the “typical waking hours of the night” with no other facts showing exigency is insufficient to justify a warrantless entry.

Facts: During a nighttime storm that caused downed powerlines, a police officer entered Rowe’s home through an open rear door.  The officer witnessed nor received any reports of suspicious activity.  The officer also did not receive any calls or requests for help at Rowe’s address.  The officer announced his presence and proceeded to search the residence.  The officer recovered a marijuana pipe. The officer took the pipe and left the residence.  Rowe was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia (35 Pa.C.S.A. Section 780-113(a)(32)).  The Superior Court concluded that the facts as presented were not sufficient to justify the officer’s warrantless entry into Rowe’s home.


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