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RYDER APPEAL (06/26/50)

June 26, 1950

RYDER APPEAL


Appeal, No. 219, Jan. T., 1949, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County, Sept. T., 1949, No. 302, in the Matter of Appeal of Anthony McCurdy Ryder, Jr. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Elmer E. Harter, Jr., with him Willis F. Daniels and Daniels, Harter & Swope, for appellant.

Randolph C. Ryder, Deputy Attorney General, with him Clinton R. Weidner and T. McKeen Chidsey, Attorney General, for appellee.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Jones and Bell, JJ.

Author: Drew

[ 365 Pa. Page 150]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE DREW

The Secretary of Revenue suspended the motor vehicle operating license of Anthony McCurdy Ryder, Jr., appellant, for driving at an excessive rate of speed in violation of § 1002 of The Vehicle Code.*fn1 The Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County sustained that action and this appeal followed.

On February 8, 1949, appellant was stopped on U.S. Highway 15, Union County, by one Neil Gallagher, a member of the Pennsylvania State Police, for driving at a speed of sixty miles an hour. At the hearing before the Secretary of Revenue and also before the lower court Gallagher testified that he had followed appellant for at least two miles at that speed. He further stated that although he was not present at the time his speedometer was tested he had a certificate showing that it had been tested for accuracy within thirty days prior to the violation. Over appellant's objections, that certificate was then admitted into evidence under § 1002 (d) of The Vehicle Code,*fn2 and it is that ruling which gives rise to this appeal.

Prior to 1939 these certificates were held to be inadmissible hearsay: Commonwealth v. Parish, 138 Pa. Superior Ct. 593, 596,

[ 365 Pa. Page 15110]

A.2d 896. However, The Vehicle Code was amended by the Act of June 27, 1939, P.L. 1135, § 23 to make such certificates prima facie evidence of the accuracy of the speedometer "in every proceeding where an information is brought charging a violation of this section". Appellant's sole contention is that that language limits the use of the certificate to criminal proceedings and since the action to suspend a license is administrative (Commonwealth v. Funk, 323 Pa. 390, 186 A. 65), the amendment is not applicable here. That argument is based on the meaning of the word "information" which appellant claims is limited to an accusation in a criminal proceeding by a prosecuting officer.

It is true that words having a precise and well-settled legal meaning must be interpreted in the same sense in statutes unless a contrary meaning is plainly intended: Smrekar v. J. & L. Steel Corp., 137 Pa. Superior Ct. 183, 191, 8 A.2d 461. However, the term "information" does not have such a precise meaning. In its strictest sense it is unquestionably defined as appellant suggests. Nevertheless it is also used more broadly to designate any complaint in summary proceedings such as those before a magistrate or justice of the peace. See Commonwealth v. Francies, 250 Pa. 496, 95 A. 527. That being true, we must look to the intent of the legislature to determine the scope and meaning of the language used in The Vehicle Code.

Section 1002 of The Vehicle Code requires not only that a person be timed over a measured distance before he is subject to punishment but also that the speedometer of the timing vehicle be certified as having been tested for accuracy within thirty days prior to the violation. Both of those requirements are included in the Code as a protection to the motorists and when both are satisfied the driver is subject to a fine in criminal proceedings ...


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