Previous Legal Updates
This page contains significant/relevant cases that were incorporated into annual LEGAL UPDATES training.
12/22/20: Commonwealth v. Alexander (Pa Supreme Court). Commonwealth v. Alexander overturns Commonwealth v. Gary and held that the automobile exception violates the PA Constitution. Effective immediately, non-consensual automobile or motor vehicle searches will require a search warrant, unless probable cause AND exigent circumstances exist.
2/3/20: Commonwealth v. Powell: Superior Court – the court concluded that when the officer ordered the defendant to roll down the window to his vehicle, the interaction became an investigative detention that was not supported by reasonable suspicion.
1/27/20: Act 103 of 2019: Amendment to Section 3503 (b) Defiant trespasser: the placement of purple paint indicates no trespassing. See law for official placement requirements. Law does not apply in a county of the first or second class.
1/26/20: Act 100 of 2019: New Crimes Code Section: Section 3133. Sexual Extortion: law defines sexual extortion as knowingly or intentionally coercing or causing someone to: engage in or simulate sexual conduct; become nude; or make, produce, or disseminate images that depict the person naked or performing or simulating a sexual act.
1/22/20: Commonwealth v. Cost – The PA Supreme Court: limited police activity during a police-citizen interaction (“mere encounter”). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that when officers retain an individual’s ID to check for warrants and ask if there was anything the officer needs to know, escalates the mere encounter into an investigation detention. Contact your local District Attorney if you have questions or for advice.
1/17/20: Commonwealth v. Bowens – The Superior Court held that evidence obtained from a cell phone after the expiration of the search warrant (48 hours) had to be suppressed. In 2017, PA Rule of Criminal Procedure – Rule 205(B) was amended allowing searches of electronic storage devices after the 48 hours. The Commonwealth v. Bowens case at this time only applies to cases prior to 2017. If an officer has a case that falls into the Bowens category, contact your local District Attorney.
1/1/20: Effective January 1, 2020, pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. Section 1725.1(f) the hearing cost for a summary traffic citation will increase from $8.00 to $9.00. As of January 1, 2020, only citations that reflect the new hearing cost will be accepted. Police departments in Pennsylvania need to order new citation forms reflecting this $1.00 increase.
1/1/20: Title 201, Rules of Judicial Administration – Rule 1910. Broadcasting, Recording and Photography in the Courtroom. Law enforcement officers may wear body cameras into the courtroom, but they may not be activated unless during an emergency situation in the courtroom. See Rule for more detailed information.
Act 91 of 2019: School Police Officers, if authorized by the court, may exercise the same powers as exercised under authority of law or ordinance by the police of the municipality in which the school property is located.
9/27/19: Commonwealth v. Batista, Superior Ct. - Given the extremely limited number of permits that have been issued, when an officer smells fresh marijuana emanating from a building that is a reported grow-house there still exists a fair probability that the marijuana inside is illegal. Law enforcement still has the power and the duty to investigate that probability.
Act 58 of 2019 (HB 1614) – This Act specifically provides jurisdiction to law enforcement to participate in task forces if their law enforcement agency has approved the participation. This Act nullifies the ruling found in Commonwealth v. Hlubin (2019).
5/31/19: Commonwealth v. Hlubin, Supreme Ct. - When law enforcement is setting up a DUI check point, there must be an Intergovernmental Cooperation Act (ICA) between agencies participating in the DUI check point. Law enforcement cannot rely on the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act (MPJA) in lieu of an ICA. Departments should seek guidance from their governmental solicitors.
5/31/19: Commonwealth v. Hicks, Supreme Ct. - Mere possession of a firearm is insufficient to “stop and frisk” a person, unless the officer has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or poses a danger.
Act 5 of 2019 (HB 279 of 2019) (Hot Car Immunity – Children) Non-Emergency Responders are not liable for damage to a motor vehicle or the contents, if the person enters the motor vehicle for the purpose of removing an individual from the motor vehicle. (Read entire Act for duties prior to and post entry into vehicle).
5/20/19: Commonwealth v. Krenzel, Superior Ct. - Read the DL-26 as part of every request for a chemical test. A subject's consent will not be deemed knowing and voluntary unless you have conveyed the information contained in the DL-26 during your request for a chemical test.
5/10/19: Commonwealth v. Scott, Superior Ct. - The odor of burnt marijuana and small amount of contraband recovered from the passenger compartment of the vehicle may not create probable cause that additional contraband is in the trunk.
4/26/19: Commonwealth v. Perfetto, Supreme Ct. - When a defendant is charged with a DUI and summary violations, these violations must be heard together to avoid violating the “compulsory joinder rule”.
4/10/19: Act 79 of 2018 - PFA orders: Law enforcement may be directed by the court to accompany plaintiff to retrieve belongings and serve PFA. Defendant may be directed to relinquish firearms within 24 hours. Defendant may relinquish firearms to law enforcement. The Act imposes custodial obligations on the police department.
1/10/19: Act 78 of 2018 - New addition to Crimes Code. Section 3505. Unlawful use of unmanned aircraft (Drones).
12/23/2018: Act 93 of 2018 - After law enforcement officers are properly trained, they may administer epinephrine auto-injectors.
12/23/2018: Act 94 of 2018 - New law. Title 18, Crimes Code Section 5103.1. Unlawful use of an audio or video device in court.
12/23/2018: Act 116 of 2018 - Access of minors to dextromethorphan. Offense to sell dextromethorphan to a minor and an offense for a minor to try to purchase dextromethorphan.
12/23/18: Act 153 of 2018 - Vehicle Code Amendments, changes to DUI law and accidents involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed – Vehicle Code section 3742.1.
12/17/2018: Act 83 of 2018 - Adds trash haulers to the list of vehicles, including tow trucks, mail delivery vans and other vehicles involved in performing a roadside service, to those for which a driver must slow down when passing.
11/18/18: Act 80 of 2018 - New offense in Crimes Code, hazing. Section 2802. Hazing and Section 2803. Aggravated Hazing.
10/17/18: Commonwealth v. Valdivia. This case was taught in MPOETC’s 2017 Legal Update Course. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, reversed the Superior Court’s ruling. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated: “Two troopers obtained Valdivia’s voluntary consent to search his vehicle. However, the consent to search given by Valdivia applied only to an immediate search of the vehicle by the troopers. That consent did not extend to a 40 minute detention pending the arrival of a drug dog, and did not extend to a search of the vehicle by the drug dog. Police officers should obtain separate and independent consents to search when there are to be separate searches by the police officers and by a drug dog. Any additional period of detention, pending the arrival of the drug dog, should be disclosed to the suspect.”
8/15/18: Updated DL-26 FormsOpens In A New Window: The changes consist of a statement being added to both forms to indicate the police officer is to inform the individual that he/she must successfully complete two consecutive breath samples in order to complete a chemical test of breath. The statement was added to the second numbered bullet on the first form under the "SECTION 1547" heading, and the first numbered bullet on the second form under the "SECTION 1613" heading.
7/1/18: PUBLIC ACCESS - the Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania became effective for filings in the Magisterial District courts. Officers must now ensure that all confidential information to include: social security numbers, financial account numbers excepting the last four digits, driver’s license numbers, state identification numbers, minor’s names and dates of birth excepting a juvenile charged as an adult and a domestic abuse victim’s home and work address and work schedule must be redacted from complaints, traffic and non-traffic citations and both sealed and unsealed search warrants. The redacted confidential information shall now appear on specified confidential information forms. Both the complaint and/or the search warrant with any required confidential information forms must be filed with the court. Any member of the public who wishes to view a document with the court will be permitted to view the redacted document but not the confidential information form. The confidential information form will be viewable only by the court and the parties to the case. Citations now include both a MDJ copy and a public access copy, both of which are filed with the MDJ’s office. Only the citation public access copy is viewable to the public. Certain confidential documents are also protected these include but are not limited to medical and psychological records and financial source documents. The criminal complaints, search warrants and citations also include a compliance certification. Failure to comply with the policy may result in an officer being personally fined.
April 2018: Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine has approved the state’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board recommendation to permit sale of dry leaf or plant form for patients with a qualifying medical condition. Patients are only permitted to vaporize the marijuana purchased in flower form because the state legislature specifically prohibited smoking in the Medical Marijuana Act of 2016. The content that was taught in the 2017 Legal Update course that leaf forms of medical marijuana may not be prescribed is no longer accurate.
4/26/18: Commonwealth v. Romero, Supreme Court Case. The Court stated that law enforcement needs probable cause to enter a third party's home to arrest a non-resident. The Court did not say law enforcement needs a search warrant to look for the non-resident. The Court did state that it would be prudent to obtain a search warrant. Law enforcement agencies should check with the District Attorney in their county for additional guidance.
4/25/18: Act 14 of 2018 (SB 449) (known as “Tierne’s Law"), was signed January 23, 2018. This Act amends Section 2711 of the Crimes Code to include Section 2718 (Relating to Strangulation) as one of the crimes police officers have the right to arrest without a warrant whenever they have probable cause.
3/9/18: Commonwealth v. Kitchen, Pa Superior Court, 03/09/2018. In order for the charge of False Identification to Law Enforcement to be upheld in Court, the defendant must first be advised that he/she is subject to an official investigation.
2/18/18: In response to Commonwealth V. Muniz, House Bill 631 (Act 10 of 2018) was passed and signed into law. This new law ensures a large portion of the offenders who would have been removed from Pennsylvania’s Sex Offender Registry, because of the ruling in this case, are still required to register.
1/28/18: Act 57 of 2018 (SB 785) Allows “Golf carts” to be exempt from registration and may cross a highway (meeting certain requirements).
1/20/18: Section 3 of the Act of July 20, 2017, P.L. 333, No. 30 (Act 2017-30), amended Section 1547 of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547 (relating to chemical testing to determine amount of alcohol or controlled substance) (the Pennsylvania Implied Consent Law). Effective Saturday, January 20, 2018, a person whose operating privilege has been suspended for a violation of the Implied Consent Law will be required to pay a restoration fee of up to $2,000 in order for the person's operating privilege to be restored. Act 2017-30 also amended the warnings requirements contained in 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547(b)(2)(i) and 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547(b.1)(2) to add a requirement that police inform the person that "the person's operating privilege will be suspended upon refusal to submit to chemical testing and the person will be subject to a restoration fee of up to $2,000."
Consequently, the PennDOT Office of Chief Counsel has prepared amendments to its three Implied Consent warnings forms that are available for use by Pennsylvania State Troopers and municipal police officers to comply with the warnings requirements of the Implied Consent Law. The new warnings about the increased restoration fees are contained in the revised DL-26A (1-18) form for breath tests, DL-26B (1-18) form for blood tests, and the two DL-27 (1-18) forms for either a violation of 75 Pa.C.S. § 1543(b)(1.1) for a person whose operating privilege is suspended or revoked for an alcohol-related offense or a violation of 75 Pa.C.S. § 3808(a)(2) for a person who illegally operates a motor vehicle not equipped with ignition interlock. The appropriate revised form should be used beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, January 20, 2018, to warn anyone who is arrested for driving under the influence or for a violation of 75 Pa.C.S. § 1543(b)(1.1) or 75 Pa.C.S. § 3808(a)(2). The new revised forms can be obtained through the Pennsylvania Justice Network (JNET).
12/24/17: Act 37 of 2017 (House Bill 1288) Reference (a) amends Pa.C.S. Title 75 (Vehicles), Section 1338 (Person with disability plate and placard), by adding optometrists to the list of medical providers authorized to certify a person as disabled for the purpose of issuing a handicapped plate or placard.
Commonwealth v. Livingstone - With emergency lights flashing, the approach of a stopped vehicle requires reasonable suspicion of either criminal conduct or that a citizen is in need of assistance. It is permissible for a police officer to have law enforcement concerns if that officer also possesses facts which reasonably would suggest that the officer’s assistance is necessary.
Commonwealth v. Loughnane
- The automobile exception applies only to vehicles located on the street or in some other public location. Law enforcement will need either a search warrant or exigent circumstances before they may seize a vehicle on a residential driveway.
11/16/17: Commonwealth v. Karash
- Law enforcement must testify at a summary trial for a Stop Sign Violation (Sec 3323B of the Vehicle Code) that no police officer or other authorized individuals gave the driver permission to not stop for the posted stop sign.
Act 13 of 2017 (SB 8) – Civil Asset Forfeiture: Comprehensive overhaul of civil asset forfeiture in Pennsylvania.
Act 22 of 2017(SB 560) – Body Worn Cameras: Removes prohibition of wearing body-worn cameras in a residence, provides public access to audio and video law enforcement recordings outside of the Right to Know Law, extends the Wiretap Act, and permits interception of certain prison recordings.
Act 30 of 2017 (SB 553) – Amending the PA Consolidated Statutes for DUIs: Amends a number of section in Title 75; brings Pennsylvania law in line with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota, excludes ARD from mandatory ignition interlock, and makes changes to the license suspension procedure.
Act 10 of 2017 (HB 1238) – Animal Abuse Overhaul (Libre’s Law): Comprehensive overhaul of Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty law.
Act 29 of 2017 (SB 527) – Office of the Inspector General: Establishes the position of the Office of Inspector General in Statute. The Inspector General will be appointed by the Governor and serve a term concurrent with the Governor’s term of office. This position already exists, but it exits under an Executive Order, not Administrative Code.
Commonwealth v. Anderson, A Lethal Weapons Act certificate is not a substitute for the license required by law to carry a firearm.
Summer 2017: Pennsylvania Driver License gets new design, but new design is not REAL ID Act compliant.http://www.dmv.pa.gov/Driver-Services/Driver-Licensing/Pages/New-Driver-License-Design.aspx
Summer 2017: The
registration plate design
has been updated.
Act 108 of 2016
(10/4/16), SB 1155, PN 1998 Special Armed Forces license plate
Act 158 of 2016
(11/4/16), SB 1062, PN 1679; New subsection of burglary 18 Pa.C.S. § 3502(a)(1)(i); Burglary of occupied residence with commission, attempt or threat to commit a bodily injury crime; Bodily injury crime defined: "Bodily injury crime." As follows: (1) An act, attempt or threat to commit an act which would constitute a misdemeanor or felony under the following: Chapter 25 (relating to criminal homicide). Chapter 27 (relating to assault). Chapter 29 (relating to kidnapping). Chapter 31 (relating to sexual offenses). Section 3301 (relating to arson and related offenses). Chapter 37 (relating to robbery). Chapter 49 Subch. B (relating to victim and witness intimidation).; (2) The term includes violations of any protective order issued as a result of an act related to domestic violence; No enhanced grading of offense – await promulgation of sentencing guidelines enhancement
Act 131 of 2017
(11/3/17), HB 1118, PN 4066; Independent Counsel Law; Relevant pages: Pages 43-44: DA may refer case to contiguous county colleague, Page 48: Covered persons with respect to Attorney General; Page 83: Duties of State Police
Act 134 of 2016
(11/3/16), HB 1496, PN 3918: Enhanced penalty for violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6105 (from F2 to F1); Previous conviction “at the time of a commission of a violation” of subsection (a); Current “physical possession or control of a firearm whether visible, concealed about the person, or within the person’s reach.”; Current language prohibits: “shall not possess, use, control, sell, transfer or manufacture or obtain a license to possess, use, control, sell, transfer or manufacture a firearm”
House Bill 1154
Police officers will not be able to physically view a sticker to determine validation status.
Act 142 of 2016
(11/3/16), HB 2058, PN 3428; Paramedic may draw blood for police in cases involving suspected DUS/DUI, Homicide by vehicle while DUI, Aggravated Assault while DUI and DUI; Paramedic not a necessary chain of custody witness if witnessing police officer testifies; Paramedic’s services recoverable as court costs (effective 2/1/17)
(Miscellaneous effective dates):
Act 165 of 2016
(11/4/16), HB 2025, PN 4069 Addition to definition of abandoned vehicle; Temporary registration cards are valid for 60 days; Amendment to Section 1332(b) – Obscuring registration plate; May not inhibit any automated enforcement system or electronic toll collection system; New subsection (b)(4) prohibits obscuring which “inhibits the visibility of the issuing jurisdiction” (violation of subsection is a $100 fine); Registration plate and card may be seized for suspension arising from unpaid tolls in this Commonwealth or in a reciprocal jurisdiction as provided for in new Section 1380; Hazardous materials endorsement not required for certain commercial drivers; Conviction for violating Section 3316 (pertaining to texting) now joins Sections 3325 and 3327 as authorizing an additional 5 year sentence enhancement to the otherwise applicable sentence for homicide by vehicle or aggravated assault by vehicle (eff. 1/3/17)
Act 111 of 2016 (10/26/16), HB 1581, PN 3089 New offense – Strangulation, 18 Pa.C.S. § 2718; Physical injury not an element of the offense; Consent is an affirmative defense; Grading can be M2, F2 or F1; F2: Victim is family or household member, care dependent person; F2: Crime committed "in conjunction with sexual violence [or] human trafficking"; F1: Defendant was subject to restraining order, used an instrument of crime or has prior F2 conviction
Act 136 of 2016 (11/3/16), HB 1703, PN 2849; Operation of ATV to be pursuant to age recommendation warning label; Reenactment of language for operators age 8 and 9; Youthful operator has five days to present safety certificate to issuing authority; Technical changes to Vehicle Code Section 7743 regarding mufflers and “sound” control
Act 111 (HB 1581 of 2016) An Act amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in assault, providing for the offense of strangulation.
Act 101(HB 950 of 2015) An Act amending Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in general provisions relating to operation of vehicles, further providing for traffic-control signals and for expiration of automated red light enforcement systems provisions. If a sensor(s) at a traffic control signal fails to detect the presence of a vehicle, the operator of that vehicle shall stop in the same manner as at a stop sign.
Birchfield v. North Dakota (United States Supreme Court), The Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrest for DUI, but not warrantless blood tests.
Act 16 of 2016 Medical Marijuana Act - see
document prepared by David J. Drumheller, Esq. of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Institute 03/04/16:
Commonwealth v. Davis (Superior Court) Live-in girlfriend has the authority to give consent to search apartment. 02/09/16:
Commonwealth v. Benito (Superior Court) Defendant did not have the privilege of entering his spouse’s residence after she told him not to enter, changed the locks, and she had exclusive control of the property.
Commonwealth v. Irvin
(Superior Court) Searching of trash cans without a warrant is lawful as long as the trash cans were placed out for pickup in an area accessible to the public.
Commonwealth v. Eichler (Superior Court) Police officer going onto the curtilage of defendant’s property did not violate the 4th Amendment, because the police officer had authority to enter onto the property for a police investigation and limited his movement to only areas that visitors would be expected to go on the grounds.
Commonwealth v. Roberts (Superior Court) Police officers engaged Defendant in a mere encounter, he fled on foot. Defendant discarded contraband. The police were legally allowed to obtain this evidence.
Act 55 of 2015
An Act amending Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in general provisions relating to operation of vehicles, further providing for obedience to authorized persons directing traffic; and providing for drivers of certified escort vehicles; in other required equipment, further providing for identification of certain vehicles; and, in size, weight and load, further providing for scope and application of chapter and for conditions of permits and security for damages.
Birchfield v. North Dakota
United States v. Slocumb(4th Circuit) Police officers did not have reasonable suspicion to detain and evidence was suppressed.