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COMMONWEALTH v. DANIELS (06/16/67)

decided: June 16, 1967.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
DANIELS, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County, 1966 Session, No. 2280, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Jane M. Daniels.

COUNSEL

Carolyn Engel Temin, Assistant Defender, with her, Leonard Packel and Vincent J. Ziccardi, Assistant Defenders, Martin Vinikoor, First Assistant Defender, and Herman I. Pollock, Defender, for appellant.

Arlen Specter, District Attorney, with him Gillian R. Gilhool and Alan J. Davis, Assistant District Attorneys, and Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

Frank P. Lawley, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, with him Edward Friedman, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Ervin, P. J., Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, and Spaulding, JJ. Opinion by Jacobs, J. Dissenting Opinion by Hoffman, J.

Author: Jacobs

[ 210 Pa. Super. Page 158]

The issue presented in this appeal is the constitutionality of the Muncy Act, the state statute providing for sentencing of women to the State Correctional Institution at Muncy.

Appellant, Jane M. Daniels, was tried before the Hon. James L. Stern without a jury on charges of burglary, aggravated robbery, carrying a concealed deadly weapon, and possession of a firearm after conviction of a crime of violence. She was found guilty of robbery on May 3, 1966, and Judge Stern sentenced her that same day to a one to four year prison term in Philadelphia County Prison. On June 3, 1966, thirty-one days after the imposition of this sentence, Judge Stern vacated the original sentence and resentenced appellant to an indefinite term of imprisonment in the State Correctional Institution at Muncy. In accordance with the Muncy Act, the sentence was a general one fixing no maximum or minimum. From that sentence appellant appealed to this court, contending that her sentence to an indeterminate term at Muncy is improper since the applicable statute provides for an unconstitutional distinction between males and females as to sentencing.

The sentencing provisions of the act, herein referred to as the Muncy Act, provide as follows:

"Any court of record in this Commonwealth, exercising criminal jurisdiction, may, in its discretion, sentence to the State Industrial Home for Women (State Correctional Institution at Muncy) any female over sixteen years of age, upon conviction for, or upon pleading guilty of, the commission of any criminal offense punishable under the laws of this State. After due notice

[ 210 Pa. Super. Page 159]

    given to all courts of record exercising criminal jurisdiction in this Commonwealth by the board of trustees of said State Industrial Home for Women that the said home is prepared to receive all women so convicted or pleading guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment for more than a year who shall be sentenced to imprisonment, such sentence in all cases shall be to confinement in said State Industrial Home for Women. Every sentence imposed pursuant to this act shall be merely a general one to the State Industrial Home for Women, and shall not fix or limit the duration thereof. The duration of such imprisonment, including the time spent on parole, shall not exceed three years, except where the maximum term specified by law for the crime for which the prisoner was sentenced shall exceed that period, in which event such maximum term, including the time spent on parole, shall be the limit of detention under the provisions of this act." 1913, July 25, P. L. 1311, § 15; 1925, May 14, P. L. 697, § 1; 1931, June 22, P. L. 859, § 1, 61 P.S. § 566 (emphasis added).

I.

The first question that must be answered is whether Judge Stern had the power to vacate the original sentence and resentence appellant. Since the second sentence was imposed after the term at which appellant was convicted and more than 30 days after her conviction, Judge Stern was impowered to vacate the original sentence only if it was illegal. See Act of June 1, 1959, P. L. 342, § 1, 12 P.S. § 1032; Commonwealth ex rel. Perrotta v. Myers, 203 Pa. Superior Ct. 287, 201 A.2d 292 (1964); Commonwealth ex rel. Firmstone v. Myers, 207 Pa. Superior Ct. 453, 217 A.2d 851 (1966). The legality of the original sentence depends on whether the Muncy Act is the exclusive authority under

[ 210 Pa. Super. Page 160]

    which Jane Daniels could have been sentenced. Judge Stern concluded that he did have to sentence appellant under the Muncy Act and that his previous imposition of one to four year sentence in the Philadelphia County prison was illegal. We agree with Judge Stern's conclusion that sentence to Muncy is mandatory where a woman is convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than a year and some imprisonment is to be imposed.

In the original Muncy Act passed in 1913, sentence to Muncy was within the discretion of the court. Act of July 25, 1913, P. L. 1311, § 15. The legislature in 1925 added the following language: "After due notice given to all courts of record exercising criminal jurisdiction in this Commonwealth by the board of trustees of said State Industrial Home for Women that the said home is prepared to receive all women so convicted or pleading guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment for more than a year who shall be sentenced to imprisonment, such sentence in all cases shall be to confinement in said State Industrial Home for Women." 1925, May 14, P. L. 697. (Emphasis added). The language of this amendment is simple and plain. No ambiguity whatsoever is present. Where the language of a statute is plain and unambiguous it must be given its obvious meaning. Davis v. Sulcowe, 416 Pa. 138, 205 A.2d 89 (1964). It is clear to us that the legislature intended to make sentence to Muncy the sole method of incarceration for any woman convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year of imprisonment.

However, it is urged that the act of February 8, 1842, P. L. 12, § 11, 19 P.S. § 1022, authorizes the sentencing of women for more than one year to the Philadelphia County Prison. Whether this 1842 Act was impliedly repealed by the Muncy Act need not be decided because the legislature specifically repealed it by

[ 210 Pa. Super. Page 161]

    the Act of December 27, 1965, P. L. 1237, 61 P.S. § 460.5. The latter act did not specifically repeal the Muncy Act nor did it by implication since it speaks only of sentences where a maximum is imposed and the Muncy Act provides only for a general sentence to Muncy.

Appellant having been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year of imprisonment,*fn1 the original sentence to the Philadelphia County Prison was illegal and Judge ...


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