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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ANIBAL DIAZ (03/23/78)

decided: March 23, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
ANIBAL DIAZ, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

John W. Packel, Chief, Appeals Div., Asst. Public Defender, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Marianne E. Cox, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, former C. J., took no part in the decision of this case.

Author: Manderino

[ 477 Pa. Page 123]

OPINION

The issue in this appeal is whether the appellant, Anibal Diaz, would be placed in double jeopardy by being tried on criminal charges to which he has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

There were various procedural facets involved in this litigation before this appeal. Only those relevant to the issue before us are recited. The trial court summarized the facts relevant to appellant's arrest and conviction as follows:

[ 477 Pa. Page 124]

"On April 13, 1974, the defendant, Anibal Diaz, was arrested and charged with Attempted Rape, Kidnapping, Indecent Assault and Simple Assault. On April 18, 1974, the defendant appeared before Judge Thomas N. Shiomos. The defendant knowingly and intelligently waived the preliminary hearing, presentment to the Grand Jury and indictment, and entered a plea of guilty on the Municipal Court transcript to the charge of Attempted Rape. In return for the guilty plea, the Commonwealth moved to nolle prosse the remaining charges. Thereupon, Judge Shiomos, sitting as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, accepted the guilty plea and sentenced the defendant to five years probation."

On April 22, 1974, appellant was rearrested for the same charges. On April 29, 1974 he moved to dismiss the complaints and quash the warrant for rearrest. Relief was denied. On June 10, 1974 appellant was indicted, and on September 23, 1974, appellant moved to dismiss the indictments. One of the grounds alleged in support of this motion to dismiss, was a claim that appellant's constitutional rights against double jeopardy were being violated. Relief was again denied. The trial court, however, certified the matter to the Superior Court for immediate review because in its opinion there was involved a controlling question of law to which there was substantial ground for difference of opinion. Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, No. 223, Art. V, § 501, 17 P.S. § 211.501. The Superior Court affirmed. We granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal, and this appeal followed.

If the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction, appellant was placed in jeopardy, within the meaning of the constitutional protections, on April 13, 1974, when he pleaded guilty in conjunction with the plea bargain and was sentenced for the crimes of which he was accused. Benton v. Maryland, 395 U.S. 784, 89 S.Ct. 2056, 23 L.Ed.2d 707 (1969). The prosecution argues that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction because an indictment was necessary to invoke that court's jurisdiction. The prosecution relies principally

[ 477 Pa. Page 125]

    on Commonwealth v. Little, 455 Pa. 163, 314 A.2d 270 (1974), and Commonwealth ex rel. Fagan v. Francies, 53 Pa. Super. 278 (1913). According to the prosecution, these cases hold that a court's subject matter jurisdiction cannot be invoked absent an indictment. We do not accept the ...


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