Being Erroneously Charged Criminally for What Is a Civil Offense
In Commonwealth v. Whiteford, 884 A.2d 364 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005), Whiteford violated certain provisions of the Existing Structures Code of Penn Hills and the Municipality brought a criminal complaint against him under which he was convicted and fined $ 400 per violation.
Whiteford appealed arguing that he was erroneously charged criminally for what was a civil offense.
The Court agreed that because the Existing Structures Code did not provide for imprisonment in lieu of payment of a fine, the violations charged were civil in nature and should have been processed in accordance with applicable civil rules.
However, the Court determined that it amounted to harmless error because Whiteford actually received a higher degree of protection in the criminal arena than he would have received under the civil rules. Whiteford, 884 A.2d at 368.