The PA Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Karash, No. 263 WDA 2017 (November 16, 2017), holding that in order to convict defendant of a Stop Sign violation, the Commonwealth is obligated to present, in its case-in-chief, evidence as to whether a police officer directed the defendant to proceed through the stop sign.

Karash was convicted by the trial court after the trial court refused to recognize the Commonwealth’s obligation to present evidence negating the exception written into the Duties at Stop Signs statute.

The statute related to Duties at Stop Sign states that “[e]xcept when directed to proceed by a police officer or appropriately attired persons authorized to direct, control or regulate traffic, every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line or, if no stop line is present, before entering a crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if no crosswalk is present, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a clear view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering.”

The Superior Court summarized the issue as whether the emphasized prefatory language operates as a proviso that supplies a defense that must be introduced and proven by Appellant, or whether it constitutes an element of the offense that must be proven by the Commonwealth. Relying on precedent established by Commonwealth v. Bannellis, 682 A.2d 383 (Pa.Super. 1996) over twenty years prior, the Superior Court concluded that the language ‘except when directed to proceed by a police officer’ is an integral part of the offense and, therefore, the Commonwealth must produce evidence negating the exception as part of its burden of proof.


DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information in this article. Case summaries are primarily excerpted directly from the decisions authored by the Courts. The decisions are cited and linked and the reader is encouraged to read the entire decision. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services. As such, it should NOT be used as a substitute for consultation with a McMahon Winters Soto-Ortiz Law Firm attorney. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should always consult with a McMahon Winters Soto-Ortiz Law Firm attorney.