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COMMONWEALTH v. GIACCIO (07/06/64)

July 6, 1964

COMMONWEALTH
v.
GIACCIO, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 218, Jan. T., 1964, from order of Superior Court, Oct. T., 1963, No. 123, reversing order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Chester County, Sept. T., 1961, No. 225, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Jay Giaccio. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Peter Hearn, with him James C. N. Paul, for appellant.

John S. Halsted, Assistant District Attorney, with him Samuel J. Halpren, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 415 Pa. Page 140]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS

In the context of current interpretations of the Constitutions of the United States and of this Commonwealth, we are asked to declare invalid the Act of

[ 415 Pa. Page 141]

March 31, 1860, P.L. 427, § 62, 19 P.S. § 1222,*fn1 which permits the imposition by a jury of costs on defendants acquitted of misdemeanors.*fn2 The Act specifically provides: "In all prosecutions, cases of felony excepted, if the bill of indictment shall be returned ignoramus, the grand jury returning the same shall decide and certify on such bill whether the county or the prosecutor shall pay the costs of prosecution; and in all cases of acquittals by the petit jury on indictments for the offenses aforesaid, the jury trying the same shall determine, by their verdict, whether the county, or the prosecutor, or the defendant shall pay the costs, or whether the same shall be apportioned between the prosecutor and the defendant, and in what proportions; and the jury, grand or petit, so determining, in

[ 415 Pa. Page 142]

    case they direct the prosecutor to pay the costs or any portion thereof, shall name him in their return or verdict; and whenever the jury shall determine as aforesaid, that the prosecutor or defendant shall pay the costs, the court in which the said determination shall be made shall forthwith pass sentence to that effect, and order him to be committed to the jail of the county until the costs are paid, unless he give security to pay the same within ten days."

Appellant was charged with pointing a deadly weapon at another person in violation of § 716 of The Penal Code, June 24, 1939, P.L. 872, 18 P.S. § 4716. The evidence was that, apparently under the apprehension that persons on a neighbor's land were about to trespass upon his own property, he fired a starting pistol in their direction. The would-be trespassers, at that time, had no way of knowing that appellant was firing blanks or that the weapon was other than a live pistol. The jury acquitted appellant of the substantive offense*fn3 but imposed the costs of prosecution upon him.

Appellant moved to be relieved of payment of the costs, which motion was granted by the trial judge. In doing so, the court declared the Act of 1860 unconstitutional and set aside the verdict insofar as it imposed upon appellant the "penalty" of the payment of costs.

The Commonwealth appealed to the Superior Court, which reversed and reinstated the "sentence." This Court granted allocatur.

Appellant makes the general constitutional challenge that the Act violates basic principles of fairness, both procedurally and substantively. The statute is attacked as vague and lacking in sufficient standards. It ...


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