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COMMONWEALTH v. HARRISON (03/20/57)

March 20, 1957

COMMONWEALTH
v.
HARRISON, APPELLANT.



Appeals, Nos. 13 and 14, April T., 1956, from judgments of County Court of Allegheny County, 1955, Nos. C857, and C821, in cases of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, City of Pittsburgh, v. David M. Harrison. Judgments affirmed.

COUNSEL

Maurice Louik, with him Harrison & Louik, for appellant.

George Shorall, Assistant City Solicitor, with him J. Frank McKenna, Jr., City Solicitor, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, and Carr, JJ.

Author: Rhodes

[ 183 Pa. Super. Page 135]

OPINION BY RHODES, P.J.

These two appeals relate to summary convictions involving the authority of a police officer of the City of Pittsburgh to direct traffic at a congested intersection.

The facts are not in dispute; the issues presented are questions of law. The summary convictions of appellant, David M. Harrison, arose out of two incidents which were essentially identical. The first occurred at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Smithfield Street, in the City of Pittsburgh, on December 7, 1953, about 9 p.m. Although the traffic signal was operating, a police officer in uniform was stationed at the corner to direct traffic. Appellant drove his automobile down Sixth Avenue toward Wood Street, intending to make a right turn into Smithfield Street. Ordinarily he would have been allowed to make such turn, but due to a congestion of traffic on Smithfield Street the officer directed appellant to continue on Sixth Avenue. Appellant entered into an argument with the officer and insisted on making the right turn. The second incident occurred on December 3, 1954, at the corner of Oliver Avenue and Grant Street, in the City of Pittsburgh, about 5:30 p.m. Due to the congestion the traffic signal at this intersection was turned off, and traffic was being directed by several police officers in uniform. Appellant was driving up Oliver Avenue toward Grant Street. Traffic at the intersection was heavy and on Grant Street it was "backed clear back

[ 183 Pa. Super. Page 136]

    to the cross-walk." An officer in uniform, who was directing traffic manually, ordered appellant to continue straight through on Oliver Avenue, but appellant engaged in an argument with the officer and insisted on making a right turn into Grant Street. Under ordinary conditions he would have been permitted to make the right turn.

The informations in both cases were almost identical; they charged appellant with failure to obey the signals or directions of the officers in violation of section 1218 (d) of The Vehicle Code of May 1, 1929, P.L. 905, as amended, 75 PS § 783 (d). Appellant waived hearings before the magistrate and gave bond for his appearance in the County Court of Allegheny County. At the hearing before Judge LENCHER, the police officers testified to the alleged violations and described the congested traffic conditions existing at the time thereof. Appellant presented no evidence. At the conclusion of the Commonwealth's evidence, appellant moved for directed verdicts on the ground that no violations of section 1218 (d) or of any other sections of The Vehicle Code or city ordinances were established. Judge LENCHER found appellant guilty in each case, and sentenced him to pay the costs, and in default thereof to stand committed to the Allegheny County Jail for the period of one day. Appeals which were taken to this Court were allowed to act as a supersedeas.

Appellant contends (1) that section 1218 (d) of The Vehicle Code, 75 PS § 783 (d), does not cover the present situation; (2) that no statute or ordinance specifically precluded a right turn at these intersections; and (3) that to permit the judgment of an individual police officer to supersede the traffic statutes and ...


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