Commonwealth v. Hale, PICS Case No. 14-0198 (Pa. Super. Feb. 6, 2014) Bowes, J. (31 pages).

SUPERIOR COURT

The Legal Intelligencer

CRIMINAL LAW

Jury Selection • Sentencing • Prior Juvenile Adjudication

Commonwealth v. Hale, PICS Case No. 14-0198 (Pa. Super. Feb. 6, 2014) Bowes, J. (31 pages).

Former law enforcement officer did not have real relationship to the case and therefore court properly refused to strike juror for cause. The court improperly increased grading of offense to second degree felony from first degree misdemeanor based on appellant's prior juvenile adjudication. Judgment of sentence vacated.

Appellant was charged with firearms offenses and related crimes after he burglarized a residence and held its occupant at gunpoint.

During jury selection, the court refused to strike for cause a law enforcement officer as per se biased, forcing appellant to use his last peremptory challenge.

Jury found appellant guilty of various offenses. The court sentenced appellant to five to 10 years of incarceration for "persons not to possess firearms," using appellant's prior juvenile adjudication to increase the grade to a second degree felony from a first degree misdemeanor.

On appeal, appellant challenged the court's refusal to strike the juror for cause, and use of his prior juvenile adjudication to increase the grading of his crime. The Superior Court upheld the court's refusal, but vacated for resentencing.

The court did not err in refusing to strike a juror who was a former member of law enforcement. Police must only be dismissed for cause where the officer has "a real relationship" to the case, i.e., he is on the same police force as the testifying officers and the credibility of the officers is a critical factor in the case. Here, juror in question, employed as a school police officer and retired as a sergeant in special investigations unit of the DA's office, did not have a real relationship with the case. Juror did not know the prosecutor, counsel, the court, or any witnesses involved. Juror was not a member of the same police force involved in the investigation. As the juror in question did not have a connection to the case, the trial judge did not err in declining to strike him based on his law enforcement background.

However, the trial court incorrectly increased the grading of persons not to possess firearms to a second degree felony based on appellant's prior juvenile adjudication. A juvenile adjudicated delinquent is not convicted of a crime. The proper grading is as a misdemeanor of the first degree, rendering any maximum sentence in excess of five years illegal.