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COMMONWEALTH v. BABB (01/12/50)

January 12, 1950

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BABB



COUNSEL

Ivan Michaelson Czap, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Leonard Michael Propper, Assistant District Attorney, John H. Maurer, District Attorney, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross and Fine, JJ.

Author: Reno

[ 166 Pa. Super. Page 64]

RENO, Judge.

Defendant was convicted before a magistrate of violating the Public Utility Law by operating a motor vehicle as a common carrier without a certificate of public convenience. He was fined $25 and costs. On appeal to the court below the case was tried de novo without a jury. Defendant offered no testimony, his demurrer

[ 166 Pa. Super. Page 65]

    to the evidence was overruled, and his motion for a directed verdict was denied. He was convicted, and this appeal followed. The sole question for us is whether the Commonwealth showed by sufficient competent evidence that defendant was guilty of the offense charged.

The Commonwealth's evidence is not disputed. Defendant was the owner of a Dodge sedan; he had not been granted a certificate of public convenience by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission; on April 19, 1949 at 1:21 a. m. two investigators for the United Cab Association hailed defendant's car, equipped with a dome light bearing the word 'Taxi', at Broad and Market Streets in central Philadelphia and were driven to their destination some twenty blocks away. At the destination one investigator asked the price, and testified that the driver replied: 'fifty cents or whatever I wanted to give'; whereupon the investigator paid the driver fifty cents. The investigator could not identify defendant as the driver of the car but it is admitted that defendant is the registered owner.

Defendant argues that the conviction cannot be sustained for three reasons: 1. Mere ownership of the vehicle without proof of owner's knowledge of its illegal use or participation in the alleged offense is insufficient. 2. The car was not a 'common carrier by motor vehicle' within the meaning of the Act since it was not transporting passengers for 'compensation.' 3. It was not shown that defendant received any money from anyone.

I. The Public Utility Law of May 28, 1937, P.L. 1053, § 1311, as amended, 66 P.S. § 1501, provides inter alia: 'Any person or corporation operating as a motor carrier * * * and any operator or employe of such carrier, and any person * * * operating as a broker, without a certificate of public convenience, * * * authorizing the service performed, as required by this act, shall, upon conviction of a first or second offense in a summary proceeding * * * be sentenced to pay the costs of prosecution

[ 166 Pa. Super. Page 66]

    and a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than three hundred dollars; * * *.' Under this Act liability is imposed upon three classes of persons: the person 'operating as a motor carrier' (e. g., an owner of a car or the proprietor of a business as distinguished from the person physically driving the car); the driver or 'employe of such carrier'; and the broker. Ownership alone does not create liability, but where an owner permits his car, equipped with a taxi light dome, to be held out to the public for the purpose of transportation and used for that purpose it is a reasonable inference that he has knowledge and control of it, especially in the absence of evidence to the contrary. The offense is purely statutory and the common-law rule that one is not liable for the criminal acts of another in which he did not participate does not apply. 'Whether a criminal intent, or a guilty knowledge, is a necessary ingredient of a statutory offense, ...


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