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LEONARDZIAK LIQUOR LICENSE CASE (09/15/67)

decided: September 15, 1967.

LEONARDZIAK LIQUOR LICENSE CASE


Appeal from order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Berks County, No. 7455 Miscellaneous Docket, 1966, in re suspension of restaurant liquor license No. R-2849 issued to William P. Leonardziak.

COUNSEL

Arthur T. Gilliespie, Jr., Special Assistant Attorney General, with him Thomas J. Shannon, Assistant Attorney General, and William C. Sennett, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellant.

James M. Potter, with him Samuel R. Liever, and Liever, Hyman & Potter, for appellee.

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

Author: Spaulding

[ 210 Pa. Super. Page 512]

The Liquor Control Board fined William P. Leonardziak, licensee, $250 for having "maintained gambling devices and/or paraphernalia on the licensed premises . . . on October 18, 1965." At a hearing de novo, the court below excluded the board's only evidence as having been unlawfully obtained and sustained licensee's appeal. The board appeals.

The board concedes that this evidence was acquired by detectives of the Reading Police Department pursuant to an invalid search warrant, and that it was properly suppressed in the Berks County Court of Quarter Sessions at a separate criminal hearing against licensee on August 9, 1966. The board, nevertheless, contends that a liquor license is a privilege and not a property right and that the evidence is admissible in the current Liquor Board citation proceeding. While it is true, "[a]s between the Commonwealth and the licensee . . . the license is simply a personal privilege subject to termination for cause or upon the death of the licensee;" Feitz Estate, 402 Pa. 437, 444 (1961), the statute insures that the holder of the license ". . .

[ 210 Pa. Super. Page 513]

    may pass on the right to apply for a transfer of the license . . . a clear recognition that the right to apply for a transfer of the license is a property right," id., at 445, citing Cochrane v. Szpakowski, 355 Pa. 357 (1946). There the Court, in decreeing specific performance of a contract to transfer a liquor license, recognized the entailment of property rights stating ". . . this contract involves the transfer and ownership of a retail liquor license, the value of which cannot be accurately determined in an action at law." Id., at 362.

Under Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), evidence obtained by illegal search and seizure is inadmissible in state courts. In One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania, 380 U.S. 693 (1965), involving an in rem action by the Liquor Control Board against an automobile used in the illegal transportation of liquor, the Court considered the proceeding "quasi-criminal" and concluded: "Its object, like a criminal proceeding, is to penalize for the commission of an offense against the law. In this case McGonigle, the driver and owner of the automobile, was arrested and charged with a criminal offense. . . . If convicted of any one of the possible offenses involved . . . he would be subject, if a first offender, to a minimum penalty of a $100 fine and a maximum penalty of a $500 fine. In this forfeiture proceeding he was subject to the loss of his automobile, which at the time involved had an estimated value of approximately $1000, a higher amount than the maximum fine in the criminal proceeding. It would be anomalous indeed, under these circumstances, to hold that in the criminal proceeding the illegally seized evidence is excludable, while in the forfeiture proceeding . . . the same evidence would be admissible." Id., at 700-701. (Footnotes omitted.)

Although the record in the instant case does not disclose the exact charge made in the criminal prosecution, the possible offense is a misdemeanor with a maximum

[ 210 Pa. Super. Page 514]

    fine of $500.*fn1 It is therefore possible that the fine imposed by the board would have been greater than the penalty ...


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