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ANEN MOTOR VEHICLE OPERATOR LICENSE CASE. (03/22/61)

March 22, 1961

ANEN MOTOR VEHICLE OPERATOR LICENSE CASE.


Appeal, No. 423, Oct. T., 1960, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, May. T., 1960, No. 315, in re appeal of Harry Anen, a minor, by Catherine Anen, his guardian, from order of Department of Revenue of Pennsylvania suspending his privilege to operate a motor vehicle. Order reversed.

COUNSEL

Elmer T. Bolla, Deputy Attorney General, with him Anne X. Alpern, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellant.

James Fitzcharles, III, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, Watkins, and Montgomery, JJ.

Author: Woodside

[ 194 Pa. Super. Page 381]

OPINION BY WOODSIDE, J.

Harry Anen and Jack Spaats had a "drag race" on a four lane highway at about 4:15 o'clock on Sunday afternoon, December 20, 1959. They stopped their automobiles side by side on the highway, and started them simultaneously, accelerating rapidly until they attained a speed which the Commonwealth's evidence indicates was in excess of 65 miles per hour. They raced for nearly a mile until stopped by a state policeman.

The Secretary of Revenue, after a hearing, suspended the motor vehicle operator's license of each participant in the race for one year. Anen appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County which ordered the Secretary of Revenue to reduce the period of suspension from one year to four months. The court found from the testimony taken before it that Anen, who was 18 years old and licensed for less than a year and a half, was engaged in racing, but the court thought it was "a relatively minor form of racing," and, as appellant needs a car to get to his place of employment, concluded that the penalty was too severe.

The Secretary of Revenue follows a practice of imposing a one year suspension for racing on a highway. A schedule of the periods of suspensions was adopted by the Secretary and filed in the office of the Department of State according to the provisions of § 21 of the Administrative Agency Law of June 4, 1945, P.L. 1388, 71 P.S. § 1710-21. Unlike many violations of The Vehicle Code which are the result of thoughtlessness, the offense of racing is a planned, wanton, deliberate violation of an exceedingly dangerous nature. It is a premeditated offense. It demonstrates the immaturity of the offender and proves that he is not worthy of the privilege of operating a motor vehicle on our public highways. Since the commission of this offense by the appellee, the legislature has made drag racing a misdemeanor

[ 194 Pa. Super. Page 382]

    subject to a maximum fine of $500 and imprisonment for three years. Act of January 8, 1960, P.L. 2118. A suspension of one year in such cases generally, and in this case particularly, is reasonable, proper and legal. It is not too severe. See Com. v. Antolich, 194 Pa. Superior Ct. 300, 166 A.2d 541 (1960).

On appeals from the Secretary of Revenue, the courts of common pleas may sustain or reverse an order suspending a motor vehicle operator's license, but ordinarily they have no authority to modify such order.

Section 620 of The Vehicle Code, which authorizes appeals to the court from a suspension by the secretary, gives the court no authority to alter, change or modify the suspension. The section provides: "Any person, whose operator's license or learner's permit has been suspended, ... shall have the right to file a petition, within thirty (30) days thereafter, for a hearing in the matter in the court of common pleas of the county in which the operator or permittee resides, ... Such courts are hereby vested with jurisdiction, ... to take testimony and examine into the facts of the case, and to determine whether ...


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