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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review in this matter to consider whether Appellant Victoria Livingstone, who was in a stopped vehicle on the side of the road, was subjected to an investigatory detention without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity when a police officer, checking to see if she needed help, pulled his patrol car, with its emergency lights activated, alongside her vehicle. The Court determined Appellant was subjected to an illegal investigatory detention based on these facts. Furthermore, although the Court recognized the public servant “exception” to the warrant requirement under the community caretaking doctrine, which in certain circumstances will permit a warrantless seizure, it concluded the doctrine did not justify the detention of Appellant under the facts of this case. Thus, the Superior Court erred in affirming the trial court's denial of Appellant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of her illegal investigatory detention, and the Superior Court's decision was reversed. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Pennsylvania v. Livingstone" on Justia Law

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This discretionary appeal relates to the authority of parole agents to detain and frisk a non-parolee visitor while performing a routine check at a parolee’s home. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also granted review to address whether reasonable suspicion existed to justify the seizure and frisk in this instance. In 2013, Pennsylvania Parole Agents Michael Welsh and Gregory Bruner conducted a routine home visit to the residence of parolee Gary Waters. Agent Welsh characterized the neighborhood as a “high crime” area. Waters invited the agents into the home, where they immediately recognized the strong odor of marijuana, which increased as they continued through the home. While Agent Welsh dealt with Waters, Agent Bruner maintained visual contact with Appellant Darrin Mathis. Agent Bruner alerted Agent Welsh that Appellant “seemed pretty nervous.” When Appellant began walking to another room, he continued to hold a jacket to his side in a “protecting type of grip” while also turning away from the agent, which revealed a bulge in the jacket. These observations caused Agent Welsh to have concerns regarding the agents’ safety. He then asked Appellant if he could pat him down for safety reasons. Appellant refused, at which time Agent Welsh again noticed the bulge, described as the size of a cigarette pack or wallet, which further raised Agent Welsh’s suspicions that Appellant may be secreting contraband or a weapon. Agent Welsh reached out to the bulge and felt what he believed was the handle of a firearm, seized the jacket and pulled it forcefully from Appellant, throwing it to the ground. Appellant was then handcuffed and patted down. Thereafter, Agent Welsh noticed a bag of marijuana on the floor between Appellant’s feet, while Agent Bruner recovered a handgun from the jacket. A local police officer reported to the residence, and Appellant admitted to ownership of the weapon and drugs. A criminal history check revealed that Appellant was prohibited from possessing a firearm. The officer arrested Appellant and charged him with possessory offenses of a prohibited firearm, a small amount of marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. Appellant filed a pretrial motion to suppress the physical evidence and his statement to police, asserting that parole agents have no statutory authority over non- offenders and that Agent Welsh did not have reasonable suspicion to detain and frisk him. The trial court denied Appellant’s motion to suppress. Following a stipulated bench trial, Appellant was convicted of all charges and sentenced to thirty-two to sixty-four months’ imprisonment. He appealed to the Superior Court. The Supreme Court determined that in light of the suspicion of criminality, the officer’s actions did not violate Appellant’s constitutional rights and affirmed his conviction. View "Pennsylvania v. Mathis" on Justia Law

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The issue raised in this discretionary appeal was whether the Commonwealth could punish an individual for conduct which was made a crime by an amended statute where the original version of the statute has been declared unconstitutional in its entirety. In 1995, Appellant Joseph Derhammer pled guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (“IDSI”), and was sentenced to five-to-ten years’ incarceration. Pursuant to Megan’s Law, he was required, upon release from prison, to register his address with the Pennsylvania State Police. He was also obligated to notify the state police of all subsequent address changes for the remainder of his life. Any failure to provide timely notification as required by law would constitute a criminal offense. While subject to these obligations, Appellant moved to a new residence on April 1, 2009, and reported his new address to the state police on April 6. Based on having waited five days, Appellant was charged by information with the second-degree felony of failing to register as a sex offender under Section 4915(a)(1) of the Crimes Code, which was part of Megan’s Law III. When Megan’s Law III was originally enacted in 2004, offenders were given ten days to report an address change to the state police. However, a 2006 legislative change reduced that period to 48 hours. Thus, the 48-hour period was in effect when Appellant relocated on April 1, 2009. In 2011, Appellant was convicted at a bench trial of failing to timely register his new address and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. After his direct appeal rights were restored nunc pro tunc, the Superior Court awarded a new trial due to the trial court’s failure to conduct a jury-waiver colloquy. In the interim, Section 4915 of the Crimes Code expired and was replaced with Section 4915.1, as part of Megan’s Law IV – commonly known as the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”). SORNA went into effect on December 20, 2012, and provided for the expiration of Megan’s Law III at that time. The following year, this Court announced its decision in Commonwealth v. Neiman, 624 Pa. 53, 84 A.3d 603 (2013), finding that Act 2004-152 amounted to omnibus legislation in violation of the Constitution’s single-subject rule. Thus, Neiman invalidated Act 2004-152 – which included Megan’s Law III – in its entirety. The Supreme Court held that, at the time of Appellant’s second trial and sentencing, the Commonwealth lacked authority to prosecute him for having waited until April 6, 2009, to report his April 1, 2009, address change. Therefore, the trial court should have granted his motion to dismiss. View "Pennsylvania v. Derhammer" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, we review the trial court’s determination that 75 Pa.C.S. 1611(e) violated Pennsylvania’s constitutional right to due process and the federal and Pennsylvania constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment. In 2013, a Pennsylvania State Police informant asked Appellee Lawrence Shoul, who held a CDL, to retrieve marijuana from one of Appellee’s co-workers and deliver it to the informant. Appellee obliged, using a motor vehicle to do so, whereupon he was arrested and charged with two counts of felony manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, and ultimately convicted of the same. Thereafter, PennDOT notified Appellee that, pursuant to Section 1611(e), he was disqualified from holding a CDL for life. Appellee appealed his disqualification to the trial court, which found that Section 1611(e) violated Pennsylvania’s constitutional right to substantive due process and the federal and Pennsylvania constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment. Preliminarily, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that Section 1611(e) was not rationally related, at least as a matter of Pennsylvania constitutional jurisprudence, to the protection of highway safety. Furthermore, the Court found merit in the trial court’s view that Section 1611(e)’s severity, relative to Section 1611’s other sanctions for conduct plainly more dangerous to highway safety, undermined the notion that it was rationally related to that purpose. Furthermore, the Court agreed that Section 1611(e)’s imposition of a lifetime disqualification undermined its rational relationship to promoting highway safety. However, the Court agreed with PennDOT that the trial court overlooked the fact that Section 1611(e) served the legitimate governmental purpose of deterring drug activity. The Supreme Court: reversed the trial court’s order insofar as it held that Section 1611(e) violated the Pennsylvania constitutional right to substantive due process; vacated the trial court’s order insofar as it held that Section 1611(e) violated the federal and state constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment; and remanded this case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Shoul v. Bureau of Driver Licensing" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted the petition for allowance of appeal filed by Daniel Loughnane to determine whether the Superior Court erred by holding that the federal automobile exception found in Commonwealth v. Gary, 91 A.3d 102 (Pa. 2014), permitted the seizure of Loughnane’s truck while it was parked in his residential driveway. In 2012, a large, dark-colored truck with a loud exhaust system was involved in a hit-and-run accident which killed nineteen-year-old Rebecca McCallick while she lay in the roadway on Hazle Street in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. This happened in front of the apartment she shared with her boyfriend, John Schenck, III, who observed the accident from their second story window. Schenck provided several statements to members of the Wilkes-Barre Police Department, describing the truck in question and identifying a vehicle in a photograph shown to him by police that he believed “looked like” the truck that struck his girlfriend. Schenck’s father came across a truck parked in a residential driveway on Liberty Street in Ashley, that he believed fit Schenck’s description. Schenck’s father took a photograph of the truck and showed it to Schenck, who identified it as the vehicle involved in the accident. That afternoon, police went to the address where Schenck’s father had observed the truck. The detective learned that Loughnane owned the residence and the truck parked in the driveway. Unable to reach Loughnane at home, the detective went to various locations in an attempt to find him or to obtain contact information for him ‒ including Loughnane’s place of business, his neighbors’ homes, and the home of Loughnane’s parents ‒ all without success. During this time, the truck was left unattended. The Supreme Court concluded after a review of the facts of this case that "Gary" does not operate to permit the warrantless seizure of a vehicle parked on a defendant’s residential driveway. The Court therefore vacated the Superior Court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Pennsylvania v. Loughnane" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review centered on whether access to public information available pursuant to section 614 of the Administrative Code of 1929, 71 P.S. 234, was governed by the Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”). On January 15, 2014, then-Treasurer Robert McCord received a letter from Appellees, Pennsylvanians for Union Reform (“PFUR”), demanding production of a list of names. PFUR’s letter stated that “this is not a request pursuant to the [RTKL],” but that instead, “[t]his is a request for the public information which is mandated to be available from your office under Section 614 of the Administrative Code of 1929 (“List of Employees to be Furnished to Certain State Officers”).” The Treasurer replied that he considered PFUR’s demand to be a request under the RTKL and would proceed accordingly. PFUR objected to application of the RTKL, and the Treasurer filed a petition for review in the nature of an action for declaratory and injunctive relief in the Commonwealth Court’s original jurisdiction. The Treasurer alleged that the List contained information that he believed exempt from public disclosure under the RTKL and the Pennsylvania Web Accountability and Transparency Act (“PennWATCH Act”). The Supreme Court concluded the RTKL governed the method of access to section 614 information, but that the exceptions to disclosure under the RTKL, 65 P.S. 37.708, did not apply to permit redactions from otherwise publicly available information. “Before disclosing any section 614 information, however, the State Treasurer must perform the balancing test set forth in Pa. State Educ. Ass'n v. Commonwealth , Dep't of Cmty. & Econ. Dev., 148 A.3d 142 (Pa. 2016) (“PSEA”), to ensure that disclosures of personal information do not violate any individual’s rights of informational privacy under Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.” View "PA Treasurer v. Union Reform" on Justia Law

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Appellee Mission Funding Alpha was a calendar-year taxpayer that conducted business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania during the year ending December 31, 2007, and subject to the Pennsylvania Foreign Franchise Tax. In this case, appellee’s annual tax report (the Report) was due to be filed on or before April 15, 2008. As of that date, appellee had timely remitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (the Department) quarterly estimated payments totaling $430,000 for its 2007 Tax Year liability. A credit overpayment was also carried forward for appellee’s 2007 Tax Year liability. Without first seeking an extension of time to file its Report after the due date of April 15, 2008, appellee filed it late, on September 19, 2008. The Department accepted appellee’s reported franchise tax liability and imposed a $913 late-filing penalty because appellee had not requested a filing extension and had not filed its Report by the due date of April 15, 2008. On September 16, 2011, appellee filed a petition for refund with the Board of Appeals, seeking a refund of the entire amount of its reported 2007 franchise tax liability ($66,344). The Board of Appeals dismissed the petition as untimely, stating it was filed more than three years after the payment date of April 15, 2008. Appellee then appealed to the Board of Finance and Revenue, arguing its refund petition was timely because the time to file a petition did not begin to run until its tax was defined or deemed paid, which did not occur until appellee filed its 2007 Report on September 19, 2008. The Board of Finance and Revenue affirmed the decision of the Board of Appeals, concluding although appellee paid $66,344 in franchise tax for 2007 on the due date of April 15, 2008, the refund petition was filed more than three years after that due date, and therefore was untimely. Appellee argued the applicable statute of limitations for a refund claim is three years from the date of payment of tax but a tax is not deemed “paid” until amounts are applied to a definite tax liability. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held the Commonwealth Court erred in holding the three-year tax refund period specified in Section 3003.1(a) of the Tax Reform Code of 1971 (Tax Code), 72 P.S. 10003.1(a), began to run on the date the corporate taxpayer files its annual tax report. Appellee’s refund petition was not timely filed because the three-year tax refund period began to run on April 15, 2008, and expired prior to the September 16, 2011 filing date. View "Mission Funding Alpha v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to determine whether the General Assembly abrogated high public official immunity when it enacted Section 6111(i) of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (UFA), 18 Pa.C.S. sections 6101-6187. Appellees John Doe 1, John Doe 2, John Doe 3 and Jane Doe 1 were adult individuals residing in Franklin County who each applied for a license to carry a firearm (LTCF) by submitting an application to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department. Subsequently, appellees filed the underlying eight-count class action complaint against Franklin County officials, pertinent here, Sheriff Dane Anthony (Sheriff Anthony, collectively, appellants), claiming, inter alia, violations of the confidentiality provision of Section 6111(i) and seeking damages. Appellees alleged they and several other applicants received notification of the approval, renewal, denial or revocation of their LTCF applications from appellants via postcards sent through the United States Postal Service (USPS), and the postcards were not sealed in an envelope. Appellees alleged, inter alia, appellants’ use of postcards to notify LTCF applicants of the status of their applications resulted in the notices being “visible [to] all individuals processing, mailing and serving the mail, as well as, [to] any individual receiving the postcard at the address, who may or may not be the applicant or license holder.” Appellees claimed these actions constituted “public disclosure” in violation of Section 6111(i). Central to this appeal is Count III of the Complaint, in which appellees specifically alleged Sheriff Anthony, in his management and leadership of the Sheriff’s Office, “instituted and directed the disclosure of confidential LTCF application information to the public, employees of the County and Sheriff’s Office not authorized under the UFA, [USPS] employees and other third parties at the same address who use the same mailbox as the LTCF applicant in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. §6111(i).” With regard to Count III, appellants sought dismissal of all claims against Sheriff Anthony on the basis that he was immune from suit as a high public official for any actions he took in his official capacity as Sheriff of Franklin County. The trial court sustained most of the preliminary objections and dismissed the entire complaint. Relevant here, the court concluded Sheriff Anthony qualified as a high public official, and was therefore immune from liability for any acts performed in his official capacity as sheriff. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held the General Assembly did not abrogate high public official immunity through Section 6111(i), and thus reversed the Commonwealth Court on this issue. View "John Doe v. Franklin Co. Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law

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In a petition for review filed in the Commonwealth Court’s original jurisdiction, a group of state senators (“the Senators”) challenged as unconstitutional the Governor of Pennsylvania’s partial disapproval of the General Appropriations Act of 2014 (“GAA”) and the 2014 Fiscal Code Amendments (“FCA”). The Commonwealth Court denied the Senators’ request for summary relief. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the Senators that the Governor’s attempted partial vetoes of the proposed legislation failed to adhere to the requirements of Article IV, Section 15, of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Court therefore reversed the Commonwealth Court’s decision denying the Senators summary relief on Count I of their petition for review. View "Scarnati v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the office of Stacy Parks Miller (“Parks Miller”), the District Attorney of Centre County, Pennsylvania, was an “office or entity of the unified judicial system” and thus properly classified as a “judicial agency” for purposes of application of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law (RTKL). Under the RTKL, only the financial records of a judicial agency are subject to disclosure in response to RTKL requests. Parks Miller contended this limitation upon the scope of disclosure of judicial records applied to district attorneys. The Commonwealth Court determined that a district attorney’s office was “county staff” and “related staff,” i.e., two categories which are expressly excluded from the Judicial Code’s definition of “personnel of the system.” The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the Commonwealth Court: the definitional section of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa.C.S. 102, and the definitions provided in the Supreme Court’s Rules of Judicial Administration, demonstrated that a district attorney’s office is not a “judicial agency” for purposes of the RTKL. View "Miller v. County of Centre" on Justia Law