from the Order July 13, 2015 in the Court of Common Pleas of
Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., BOWES, J., PANELLA, J., LAZARUS, J.,
OTT, J., STABILE, J., DUBOW, J., MOULTON, J., and RANSOM, J.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appeals from the order entered
July 13, 2015, granting Appellee Marc Perfetto's motion
to dismiss, which asserted a violation of Pennsylvania's
compulsory joinder rule. See 18 Pa.C.S. § 110.
Subject to certain jurisdictional exceptions, which will be
explained herein, we hold that the subsequent prosecution of
an offense arising out of a criminal episode that had
triggered the former prosecution of a different offense is
barred where those multiple offenses occur in the same
judicial district. However, because of jurisdictional
exceptions applicable to Philadelphia, the holding of the
trial court is reversed.
derive the following statement of facts and procedural
background of this case from the trial court's opinion,
which in turn is supported by the record. See Trial
Ct. Op., 11/6/2015, at 1-2. In July 2014, Appellee was
arrested in the City and County of Philadelphia and charged
with three counts of driving under the influence
("DUI") and the summary offense of driving without
lights when required. In September 2014, Appellee was found
guilty of the summary traffic violation following a trial
in absentia in the Philadelphia Municipal Court
Traffic Division. Thereafter, the Commonwealth proceeded
separately on the DUI charges in the Philadelphia Municipal
Court General Division. Following a preliminary hearing,
Appellee was held over for court and the matter was listed
for trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
2015, Appellee filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that
subsection (1)(ii) of 18 Pa.C.S. § 110, known as the
compulsory joinder rule, barred his prosecution for DUI.
See Motion to Dismiss, 6/4/2015, at 1 (asserting
that he had already been tried for the offenses charged);
see also Memorandum in Support, 6/4/2015, at 1-3
(suggesting dismissal was appropriate because the multiple
charges filed against him arose from the same criminal
episode, occurred within the same judicial district, and the
Commonwealth was aware of the charges.).
a hearing, the trial court granted Appellee's motion to
dismiss. The court noted that (1) an earlier prosecution had
resulted in a conviction for a summary traffic offense; (2)
Appellee's DUI charges arose from the same criminal
episode; (3) the Commonwealth was aware of the multiple
charges; and (4) all charges occurred in the same judicial
district. See Trial Ct. Op., 11/6/2015, at 3 (citing
in support Commonwealth v. Reid, 77 A.3d 579, 582
(Pa. 2013)). The court also referenced the recent
restructuring of Philadelphia Municipal Court, in which that
court absorbed the former Traffic Court of Philadelphia.
See Act 17-2013 (S.B. 334), P.L. 55
(2013). According to the court, the merger
brought charges within the jurisdiction of the same court,
and the court reasoned that the policy aims of 18 Pa.C.S.
§ 110(1)(ii) dictated that the secondary prosecution be
barred. Trial Ct. Op., 11/6/2015 at 4-5. After careful
analysis, we disagree.
August 2015, the Commonwealth filed a notice of appeal and a
Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) statement. The trial court issued a
responsive opinion. A panel of this Court sua sponte
sought en banc certification of this matter to
address the effect of amended language of the compulsory
joinder rule on our Commonwealth, and certification was
granted on August 30, 2016. Both parties submitted additional
briefs, and this case was argued before the Court en
banc on December 13, 2016.
issue presented is whether the trial court erred when it
dismissed DUI charges pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 110 based
on the prior adjudication of Appellee's summary traffic
offense. Commonwealth's Brief at 4. Whether the lower
court misapplied the 2002 amendment raises a question of law,
and thus our standard of review is de novo, and our
scope of review is plenary. See Commonwealth v.
Fithian, 961 A.2d 66, 72 (Pa. 2008). A statute's
plain language generally offers the best indication of the
General Assembly's intent. Martin v. Commonwealth,
Dep't of Transp., Bureau of Driver Licensing, 905
A.2d 438, 443 (Pa. 2006). "When the words of a statute
are clear and unambiguous, there is no need to look beyond
the plain meaning of the statute 'under the pretext of
pursuing its spirit.'" Fithian, 961 A.2d at
74 (citing 1 Pa.C.S. § 1921(b)); see also
Commonwealth v. Veon, 150 A.3d 435, 445 (Pa. 2016).
110 is a codification of the rule announced by our Supreme
Court in Commonwealth v. Campana, 304 A.2d 432 (Pa.
1973), vacated and remanded, 94 S.Ct. 73 (1973),
reinstated, 314 A.2d 854 (Pa. 1974), cert.
denied, 94 S.Ct. 3172 (1974)." Commonwealth v.
Gimbara, 835 A.2d 371, 374 (Pa. Super. 2003). In
Campana, our "Supreme Court held that 'the
Double Jeopardy Clause requires a prosecutor to bring, in a
single proceeding, all known charges against a defendant
arising from a single criminal episode.'"
Id. at 374 (quoting Campana, 304 A.2d at
441). The compulsory joinder rule serves two
distinct policy considerations:
(1) to protect a person accused of crimes from governmental
harassment of being forced to undergo successive trials for
offenses stemming from the same criminal episode; and (2) as
a matter of judicial administration and economy, to assure
finality without unduly burdening the judicial process by
Commonwealth v. Hude, 458 A.2d 177, 180 (Pa. 1983).
It is well- established that the "burden to protect a
defendant from vexatious litigation and to conserve judicial
resources rests squarely on the shoulders of the
Commonwealth, and thus, it is the Commonwealth's burden,
rather than the defendant's, to move for consolidated
trials." Commonwealth v. Failor, 770 A.2d 310,
313-15 (Pa. 2001) (citing Commonwealth v. Stewart,
425 A.2d 346, 349-50 (1981)); Commonwealth v.
Muffley, 425 A.2d 350, 352 (Pa. 1981); Commonwealth
v. Holmes, 391 A.2d 1015, 1018 (Pa. 1978). The Court may
only find waiver of the compulsory joinder rule when a
defendant affirmatively acts to separate the prosecutions
pending against him. Failor, 770 A.2d at 314-15
(citing Stewart, 425 A.2d at 349-50); see
also Commonwealth v. Tarver, 357 A.2d 539 (Pa.
to the 2002 amendment, Pennsylvania's compulsory joinder
statute stated in relevant part:
§ 110. When prosecution barred by former
prosecution for different offense
(1) The former prosecution resulted in an acquittal or in
a conviction as defined in section 109 of this title
(relating to when prosecution barred by former prosecution
for the same offense) and the subsequent prosecution is
(ii) any offense based on the same conduct or arising
from the same criminal episode, if such offense was
known to the appropriate prosecuting officer at the time of
the commencement of the first trial and was within the
jurisdiction of a single court unless the court ordered
a separate trial of the charge of such offense …
18 Pa.C.S. § 110 (1973) (amended 2002) (emphasis added).
Supreme Court outlined a four-prong test utilized to
determine when the compulsory joinder rule applied to
subsequent prosecution. If each of the prongs in the
following test was met, subsequent prosecution was barred:
Commonwealth v. Bracalielly, 658 A.2d 755, 760 (Pa.
phrase, "within the jurisdiction of a single court"
was consistently interpreted by our Supreme Court to mean
that Magisterial District Courts and Courts of Common Pleas
were not a "single court." Barber, 940
A.2d at 378; see e.g. Commonwealth v. Beatty, 455
A.2d 1194 (Pa. 1983) (on jurisdictional grounds, reading
Section 110 as excluding traffic violations under the Vehicle
Code), Commonwealth v. Breitegan, 456 A.2d 1340 (Pa.
1983) (determining the compulsory joinder rule did not
preclude the prosecution of misdemeanors after a
defendant's guilty plea to three summary traffic offenses
arising from the same episode), Commonwealth v.
Taylor, 522 A.2d 37, 39 (Pa. 1987) ("since the
harassment charge, as a summary offense, was in the
jurisdiction of the district justice, conviction or a plea of
guilty to that charge in a summary proceeding did not bar the
subsequent trial of the [misdemeanor] weapons
Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Geyer,
687 A.2d 815, 818 (Pa. 1996) examined its holdings in
Beatty, Breitegan, and Taylor, and
clarified that summary offenses were also subject to a
compulsory joinder analysis provided that there were multiple
summary offenses at issue within a single
court. Geyer, 687 A.2d at 818,
see also Failor, 770 A.2d at 313-14 (Appellant's
prosecution for driving with a suspended license was barred
following his guilty plea in court for a speeding citation
when all four prongs of compulsory joinder test met.).
on August 27, 2002, the General Assembly amended Section
110(1)(ii) to its current language ("2002
amendment"). Act 82-2002 (S.B. 1109), P.L. 481, § 1
(2002). Specifically, the legislature substituted the phrase
"was within the jurisdiction of a single court"
with "occurred within the same judicial district as
the former prosecution." 18 Pa.C.S. §
110(1)(ii) (emphasis added). In recognition of the 2002
amendment, the fourth prong of the compulsory joinder test
was updated to reflect the amended language, which now reads:
all charges [are] within
the same judicial district as the former prosecution
Commonwealth v. Reid, 77 A.3d at 582 (citing
Commonwealth v. Nolan, 855 A.2d 834, 839
(Pa. 2004) (superseded by statute on other grounds) (emphasis
2008, our Supreme Court examined the legislative intent
behind the 2002 amendment:
Fithian, 961 A.2d at 75; see also 42
Pa.C.S. § 901 (defining the judicial districts of this
the noted shift in the court's inquiry, from "same
jurisdiction" to "same judicial district, " no
case before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has addressed
how this change in statutory language affected pre-amendment
compulsory joinder practices. In our view, the amended
language of Section 110 is clear and unambiguous, and it
requires a court to consider not the jurisdiction of
a court, but rather whether multiple offenses occurred within
the same judicial district. If so, and provided the
prosecutor is aware of the offenses, all charges shall be
joined and prosecuted together. Thus, the addition of the
"same judicial district" language requires that all
charges occurring within the same judicial district, arising
from the same criminal conduct or criminal episode, and known
to a prosecutor, shall be joined at the time of commencement
of the first prosecution. 18 Pa.C.S. § 110.
Commonwealth raises arguments challenging the trial
court's application of the compulsory joinder rule.
Commonwealth's first claim asserts that the trial court
ignores the longstanding precedent of this Commonwealth.
Commonwealth's Substituted Brief at 10-13;
Commonwealth's Substituted Reply Brief at 4-5, 10-12. In
support of this argument, the Commonwealth cites cases which
predate the 2002 amendment. See Beatty, 455 A.2d at
1198; Breitegan, 456 A.2d at 1341; Taylor,
522 A.2d at 39-40; Commonwealth v. Bergen, 4 A.2d
164, 168 (Pa. Super. 1939); Commonwealth v. Caufman,
662 A.2d 1050, 1051 (Pa. 1995); Commonwealth v.
Masterson, 418 A.2d 664, 669 (Pa. Super. 1980);
Bellezza, 603 A.2d at 1036. Insofar as these
cases premise their joinder analysis on the jurisdiction of a
single court, they are of limited precedential value, and we
reject the Commonwealth's assertion.
citing in support 18 Pa.C.S. § 112, the Commonwealth
argues that joinder is not required where the initial
prosecution proceeds before a court that lacks jurisdiction
over offenses charged in a subsequent prosecution.
Commonwealth's Substituted Reply Brief at 7-10. However,
the Commonwealth misinterprets Section 112.
112 provides in relevant part:
§ 112. Former prosecution before court
jurisdiction or when fraudulently
procured by the defendant
A prosecution is not a bar within the meaning of section 109
of this title (relating to when prosecution barred by former
prosecution for same the offense) through section 111 of this
title (relating to when prosecution barred by former
prosecution in another jurisdiction) under any of the
(1) The former prosecution was before a court which lacked
jurisdiction over the defendant or the offense.
18 Pa.C.S. § 112.
Court has previously interpreted Section 112. In
Commonwealth v. Schmotzer, 831 A.2d 689 (Pa. Super.
2003), a defendant's federal case was dismissed for
"want of jurisdiction." Schmotzer, 831
A.2d at 691. Thereafter, the Commonwealth pursued criminal
charges for the same conduct in state court. Id. The
defendant sought dismissal on double jeopardy grounds.
Id. at 691-92. However, the trial court denied the
motion to dismiss. Id. at 692. This Court affirmed,
holding that Section 112 applied because the federal court
had lacked jurisdiction and that a second prosecution was
permitted. Id. at 696. Thus, where an initial
prosecution proceeds before an improper court - a court
without jurisdiction - a subsequent prosecution for the same
offense in a proper court is not barred. Id.; 18
Pa.C.S. § 112(1). As such, we reject the
while jurisdiction is no longer an element of the compulsory
joinder test, the jurisdiction of a court remains a
consideration implicit to any compulsory joinder analysis,
and it is particularly important in those judicial districts
that, for various reasons, have distinct minor courts or
magisterial district judges vested with exclusive
jurisdiction over specific matters.
jurisdiction of the courts of common pleas under this section
shall be exclusive except with respect to actions and
proceedings concurrent jurisdiction of which is by statute or
by general rule adopted pursuant to section 503 vested in
another court of this Commonwealth or in the magisterial
district judges." 42 Pa.C.S. § 931(b).
such example of where the exclusive jurisdiction of the court
of common pleas is superseded by the exclusive jurisdiction
of a minor court or magistrate district judge is found in 42
Pa.C.S. § 1302, which governs the jurisdiction and venue
of traffic courts. In judicial districts with a designated
and open traffic court such as Philadelphia,  42
Pa.C.S. § 1302 expressly defines the jurisdiction of a
traffic court and effectively carves out an exception to the
normal operation of the compulsory joinder rule.
§ 1302. Jurisdiction and venue
(a) General rule.--Except as set forth in
subsection (a.1) or as otherwise prescribed by any general
rule adopted pursuant to section 503 (relating to
reassignment of matters), each traffic court shall have
jurisdiction of all prosecutions for summary offenses
(1)Title 75 (relating to vehicles).
(2)Any ordinance of any political subdivision enacted
pursuant to Title 75.
(a.1) Traffic Court of Philadelphia.-
(1) Except as otherwise prescribed by any general rule
adopted pursuant to section 503, each traffic court under
Subchapter B1 (relating to Traffic Court of
Philadelphia) shall, at the direction of the President
Judge of the Philadelphia Municipal Court, have
jurisdiction of all prosecutions for summary offenses
(i) Title 75.
* * *
(b) Concurrent and exclusive jurisdiction.--The
jurisdiction of a traffic court under this section shall be
exclusive of the courts of common pleas and magisterial
district judges, except that such jurisdiction shall be
concurrent with the magisterial district judges whenever the
traffic court is closed.
42 Pa.C.S. § 1302(a.1), (b) (emphasis
added). This distinction requires that all
summary traffic violations be adjudicated in the traffic
court of a judicial district. Therefore, where a defendant is
charged with a summary traffic violation, a misdemeanor, and
a felony, in judicial districts with a traffic court, the
Title 75 summary offense may be disposed of in a prior
proceeding in the traffic ...