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Commonwealth v. Martin

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 23, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellant
v.
ROBERT MARTIN, Appellee

Argued April 9, 2014

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, No.: MC-51-CR-0006764-2012. Before PATRICK, J.

Anthony V. Pomeranz, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Joseph K. Kelly, Philadelphia, for appellee.

BEFORE: SHOGAN, J., STABILE, J., and PLATT, J.[*]

OPINION

Page 364

PLATT, J.

The Commonwealth appeals from the common pleas court's order affirming the municipal court's verdict finding Appellee, Robert Martin, not guilty of the charge of driving under the influence (DUI)[1] on the basis that the Commonwealth had not presented any evidence. We reverse.

On January 4, 2013, the parties appeared before the municipal court for a bench trial concerning the above DUI charge. After the court crier's announcement of the case, Appellee waived arraignment and the Commonwealth requested a continuance because it needed a particular witness in order to proceed. The municipal court denied the continuance request.

Defense counsel inquired whether the Commonwealth's other witnesses were present and the Commonwealth discovered that they had left without permission. The municipal court refused the Commonwealth's second continuance request and asked whether it wanted to withdraw the case. The Commonwealth immediately moved for withdrawal over Appellee's objection. After initially agreeing that the Commonwealth's motion was appropriate, the municipal court instead declared Appellee not guilty.

On February 4, 2013, the Commonwealth appealed the decision to the court of common pleas. On April 24, 2013, the common pleas court affirmed the municipal court verdict on the basis of double jeopardy. On May 22, 2013, the Commonwealth timely appealed and filed a Rule 1925(b) statement. See Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b).[2]

The Commonwealth raises one question for our review: " Did the [common pleas] court, sitting as an appellate court, erroneously affirm the [m]unicipal [c]ourt order finding [Appellee] 'not guilty' prior to a non-jury trial where testimony had not begun and jeopardy had not attached?" (Commonwealth's Brief, at 1).

It is well-settled that " [a]n appeal grounded in double jeopardy raises a question of constitutional law. This [C]ourt's scope of review in making a determination on a question of law is, as always, plenary. As with all questions of law, the appellate standard of review is de novo . . . ." Commonwealth v. Vargas, 2008 PA Super. 75, ...


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