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COMMONWEALTH v. ONE 1958 PLYMOUTH SEDAN (MCGONIGLE (04/21/64)

April 21, 1964

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ONE 1958 PLYMOUTH SEDAN (MCGONIGLE, APPELLANT).



Appeal, No. 204, Jan. T., 1963, from order of Superior Court, Oct. T., 1962, No. 14, reversing order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County, Feb. T., 1961, Miscellaneous Liquor Docket No. 4, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. One 1958 Plymouth Sedan, in possession of George McGonigle. Order affirmed; reargument refused June 30, 1964.

COUNSEL

Paul M. Chalfin, with him Louis Lipschitz, for appellant.

Thomas J. Shannon, Assistant Attorney General, with him Walter E. Alessandroni, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 414 Pa. Page 541]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE JONES

At approximately 6:30 a.m. on December 16, 1960, two officers of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, stationed near the approach to the Benjamin Franklin bridge in New Jersey, observed a 1958 Plymouth sedan bearing Pennsylvania license plates proceeding toward the bridge in the direction of Philadelphia. Noting that "the car was low in the rear, quite low", the officers followed the automobile across the bridge into Philadelphia where they stopped and searched the automobile without first having obtained either a body or a search warrant. Their search revealed that the rear seat and back-rest of the automobile had been removed

[ 414 Pa. Page 542]

    and that the rear and trunk of the automobile contained 375 bottles of whiskey and wine none of which bore Pennsylvania tax seals.

Both the car and alcoholic beverages were seized. The Commonwealth instituted proceedings for the forfeiture of the automobile in the Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County. That court dismissed the forfeiture proceedings on the ground that the seizure of the automobile "was founded upon evidence illegally obtained", i.e., without a warrant and without probable cause. The Superior Court reversed, three judges dissenting, and we granted an allocatur.

The thrust of the arguments, both of the appellant and the Commonwealth, is directed to the validity and propriety of the search and the subsequent seizure by the officers of this Plymouth automobile. In our view, such arguments are beyond the point. By reason of the nature of the present proceeding, i.e., a forfeiture procedure, we consider it unnecessary to determine the propriety and validity of the search and the seizure of this automobile.

This proceeding was instituted under the Act of April 12, 1951, P.L. 90, § 601, as amended by the Act of April 20, 1956, P.L. (1955) 1508, § 1, 47 PS § 6-601, which provides: "No property rights shall exist in any ... vehicle ... used in the illegal manufacture or illegal transportation of liquor, alcohol or malt or brewed beverages, and the same shall be deemed contraband and proceedings ...


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