Commonwealth’s right to appeal interlocutory order denying motion in limine challenging constitutionality of statute

Com. v. Pownall, 240 A. 3d 905 (Pa. Super. 2020) (unreported), appeal docket 17 EAP 2021, allocatur granted Apr. 20, 2021

Commonwealth appealed the denial of its motion in limine challenging the facial constitutionality of statute addressing police officer’s use of force in making an arrest, in light of defendant’s justification defense. Commonwealth certified  under Pa. R.A.P. 311(d) that the trial court’s order “will terminate or substantially handicap the prosecution” and argued alternatively that the trial court’s order fit the criteria for a collateral order.

Superior Court quashed the Commonwealth’s appeal, finding that it had not satisfied the criteria for either theory of interlocutory appeal as of right, and concluding that the Commonwealth was seeking the court to rewrite the statute, not interpret it.

The Supreme Court has granted allocatur to decide:

1) Did the Superior Court err when it held that it did not have jurisdiction over the Commonwealth’s appeal under the collateral order doctrine where the appeal raised only the facial constitutionality of a broadly applicable statute that in no way implicated the question of [Respondent’s] guilt or innocence?

(2) Did the Superior Court improperly depart from this Court’s precedent by holding that the Commonwealth may invoke its right to an interlocutory appeal under Pa.R.A.P. 311(d) only where it arises from an order that excludes, suppresses, or precludes the Commonwealth’s evidence?

 (3) Did the Superior Court improperly depart from this Court’s precedent and the General Assembly’s Rules of Statutory Construction by stating that it could not properly construe a statute to give effect [to] legislative intent?

For more information, contact Kevin McKeon or Dennis Whitaker.