Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, No. 623 of 1971, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Harry J. Reeves.
Charles C. Brown, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant.
John R. Miller, for appellee.
Wright, P. J., Watkins, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, Cercone, and Packel, JJ. Opinion by Hoffman, J. Wright, P. J., dissents. Concurring Opinion by Packel, J.
[ 223 Pa. Super. Page 52]
The Commonwealth appeals the trial court's suppression of the results of appellee's blood test. The lower court excluded this evidence because the blood test was administered incident to an unlawful arrest.
The appellee, Harry Reeves, was involved in a two car accident causing the death of another individual. After the appellee was taken to the hospital, a Pennsylvania State Policeman arrived at the scene of the collision and initiated an investigation. When the state trooper learned that the appellee was a party to the accident, the trooper proceeded to Centre Community Hospital to interview the appellee. The trooper placed the appellee under arrest at the hospital without first having obtained a warrant for his arrest. The appellee was later charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating beverages and involuntary manslaughter, both of which are misdemeanors.
A police officer may only make a warrantless arrest for a misdemeanor "where he has probable cause to believe
[ 223 Pa. Super. Page 53]
that a misdemeanor is being committed in his presence."*fn1 Commonwealth v. Vassiljev, 218 Pa. Superior Ct. 215, 219-220, 275 A.2d 852 (1971) (emphasis added).*fn2
This precept forbidding warrantless arrests for misdemeanors committed out of the presence of the arresting officer has roots in the Magna Carta which was promulgated in England in 1215. That famous declaration of human liberties stated: "No freeman shall be seized, or imprisoned, or dispossessed, or outlawed, or in any way destroyed; nor will we condemn him, nor will we commit him to prison, excepting by the legal judgment of his peers or by the laws of the land." Stringham, Magna Carta: Fountainhead of Freedom, p. 235 (1966). The English Courts long ago ruled that a constable could not arrest for a breach of peace done out of his sight. Sharrock v. Hannemer, Cro. Eliz. pt. 1, p. 375, 78 Eng. Reprint 622 (1970). This principle has so long been common knowledge that in 1899 the
[ 223 Pa. Super. Page 54]
Michigan Supreme Court enunciated this rule and said that the concept was so elementary that no authorities need be cited for the proposition. Tillman v. ...