Appeal, No. 340, Oct. T., 1960, from order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County, April T., 1960, No. 3, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. One 1958 Oldsmobile Sedan. Order affirmed.
Russell C. Wismer, Special Assistant Attorney General, with him George G. Lindsay and Horace A. Segelbaum, Assistant Attorneys General, and Anne X. Alpern, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellant.
E. Harris Baum, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, Watkins, and Montgomery, JJ.
[ 194 Pa. Super. Page 353]
This is an appeal by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board from an order of the Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County denying the Board's petition for forfeiture of a 1958 Oldsmobile sedan, manufacturer's serial No. 587MO3885, and directing the submission by counsel of a decree "in accordance with respective interests of parties".
[ 194 Pa. Super. Page 354]
On February 18, 1960, the Oldsmobile in question was sold by Miracle Motors, Inc., hereinafter referred to as Miracle, to Mr. Marie Hedgepeth. In the transaction, Hedgepeth traded in a Buick which Miracle had sold him on May 30, 1958. At the time Hedgepeth became the registered owner of the Oldsmobile, an encumbrance was created in favor of Miracle in the amount of $2,537.28. Ten days later, on February 28, 1960, police officers of the City of Philadelphia, having received information that the Oldsmobile was being used to transport moonshine whiskey, located the vehicle, parked and unattended, at the southeast corner of 48th and Brown Streets. When no person appeared after several hours, the officers searched the vehicle and found in the trunk twenty-four one-half gallon jugs of untaxed whiskey. On April 5, 1960, the Board filed a petition for forfeiture. No answer was filed by Hedgepeth. Miracle filed an answer denying the Board's averment of ownership in Hedgepeth, and averring that the vehicle "is not owned free and clear by Marie Hedgepeth, but is encumbered by agreement dated February 18, 1960, in the amount of $2,537.28 in favor of Miracle Motors, Inc".
At the hearing before Judge GLEESON on May 26, 1960, it was not disputed that the Oldsmobile was unlawfully used. The sole question to be determined on this appeal is whether the discretion of the Court of Quarter Sessions in a forfeiture proceeding extends to an innocent lien holder who is not the registered owner of the vehicle sought to be condemned.
The record clearly discloses that Miracle had no knowledge, or reason to know, of the Oldsmobile's unlawful use. David Bell, Miracle's assistant manager, testified that, when Hedgepeth purchased the Buick in 1958, a careful credit check was made. Hedgepeth's employer, Sorenson Industries, Darby, reported that
[ 194 Pa. Super. Page 355]
he had been "a steady and honest and very conscientious employe for the past eight years". Kramer Manufacturing Company, 313 Arch Street, Philadelphia, the employer for many years of Hedgepeth's wife, reported that she "was considered one of their faithful, honest and decent employees". The Hedgepeth's landlord for six years at 3921 Willow Street, Philadelphia, reported "that they had been good tenants and there had been no complaint about them in the neighborhood or by any of the other tenants in the building". A similar check, with substantially the same result, was made when Hedgepeth purchased the Oldsmobile ...