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COMMONWEALTH v. KOHAN. (05/21/56)

May 21, 1956

COMMONWEALTH, APPELLANT,
v.
KOHAN.



Appeal, No. 97, March T., 1956, from order of County Court of Allegheny County, 1955, No. C 2572, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Joseph A. Kohan. Order reversed.

COUNSEL

Marvin Garfinkel, Deputy Attorney General, with him Herbert B. Cohen, Attorney General, for appellant.

No argument was made nor brief submitted for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 385 Pa. Page 265]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

On May 10, 1955, while driving his car on Hardy's Road in Hampton Township at a speed which ignored the hazardous conditions of the highway - a light rain was falling, the roadway was wet, winding and slippery - Joseph A. Kohan, 17 years of age, not unnaturally attracted the attention of a State trooper fortuitously on the scene. The officer pursued him an unnamed distance and finally apprehended him on a certain Wildwood Road. A month later the youthful motorist was taken before a Justice of the Peace who fined him $10.00 and imposed costs in the sum of $3.50.

On August 3, 1955, the Bureau of Highway Safety, Department of Revenue, notified Joseph to appear on August 19, 1955, for a hearing on the subject of motor vehicle violation. The notice ended with the paragraph: "The Vehicle Code provides that operating privileges may be suspended for failure to appear for a hearing."

Joseph did not attend the hearing and on October 18, 1955, the Secretary of Revenue, under the authority of Section 615(b) of The Vehicle Code of 1929, as amended, 75 PS ยง 192(b), suspended his driving privileges indefinitely. Joseph then petitioned the County Court of Allegheny for an appeal from the action of the

[ 385 Pa. Page 266]

Secretary of Revenue, asserting that since he had paid his fine and the costs of prosecution and there had been no accident, he did not believe that there had existed any legal necessity for him to appear at the hearing.

On January 9, 1956, the County Court heard the appeal and dismissed it, after ordering that Joseph's driving privileges be restricted for 60 days. On the following day, January 10, 1956, the County Court reversed its position and sustained the appeal, with the statement that: "The Court is of the opinion that the Secretary of Revenue's action is arbitrary and that a rehearing should be scheduled for the defendant Kohan."

The record fails to reveal any arbitrariness on the part of the Secretary of Revenue. On the contrary, he would have been remiss in the fulfillment of his duties if he had not taken the action which was condemned by the lower court. The work of the Bureau of Highway Safety would fall into hopeless and dismal chaos if, before it could act, it would be required to depend on the procrastinations, the vacillations, and equivocations of accused motorists. It would challenge credulity beyond what has been written in the history of human nature, to expect that a motorist, who failed to appear at a hearing for an alleged violation, would ask for a second hearing, knowing that so long as he failed to request the ...


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