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COMMONWEALTH v. STAMOOLIS (12/05/72)

decided: December 5, 1972.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
STAMOOLIS



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation v. Gus Stamoolis, No. SA 408 of 1970.

COUNSEL

Stuart A. Liner, Assistant Attorney General, with him Anthony J. Maiorana, Assistant Attorney General, Robert W. Cunliffe, Deputy Attorney General, and J. Shane Creamer, Attorney General, for appellant.

G. Daniel Carney, with him Thorp, Reed & Armstrong, for appellee.

Judges Kramer, Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 6 Pa. Commw. Page 618]

This is an appeal by the Department of Transportation (Department) from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County restoring motor vehicle operating privileges to Gus Stamoolis (licensee). We believe that this decision of the court below should be affirmed.

The facts, as found by the court below, are that the licensee was operating his automobile on a winding and unfamiliar road at approximately 1:00 a.m. when he struck a rock in the road, lost control of the steering, and hit two brick pillars. Because the road was narrow at this point, the licensee's automobile was in a position blocking oncoming traffic. He attempted, therefore, to pull off the roadway and to park, but found that the nearest spot available for parking was approximately one and one-quarter miles from the scene of the accident. Within minutes after parking the car at this spot, the licensee was approached by persons identifying themselves as neighbors who had witnessed the accident. They informed him that they had notified the police, and he told them that he would remain where he was until the police arrived, which he did.

[ 6 Pa. Commw. Page 619]

An information was filed before a local magistrate charging the licensee with leaving the scene of an accident, and the licensee subsequently paid a fine and costs in the amount of $30.00. A hearing was thereafter held by the Department and, pursuant to § 618(b)(2) of The Vehicle Code, Act of April 29, 1959, P.L. 58, as amended, 75 P.S. § 618(b)(2), the licensee's operator's license was suspended for two months for an alleged violation of § 1027(d) of The Vehicle Code, 75 P.S. § 1027(d).*fn1 The licensee appealed this suspension to the court below, which properly heard the matter de novo. Commonwealth v. Silverman, 2 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 538, 279 A.2d 83 (1971); Appeal of Horvath, 1 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 353, 274 A.2d 776 (1971). The court below concluded that the imposition of a suspension in this case was an abuse of discretion and also that "[t]here is a serious question as to whether the defendant was even technically guilty of violation of Section 1027(d) of the Vehicle Code." The court below reversed the suspension, and the Department appealed to this Court.

Section 1027 of The Vehicle Code was intended to deal with a very real problem -- the hit-and-run driver.

[ 6 Pa. Commw. Page 620]

As a means of protecting individuals who have suffered injury to their persons or to their property, it very properly requires the offending driver to make his identity known to the injured person or property owner and to notify the police as well. The section is obviously aimed at those drivers who attempt to flee the scene of an accident in which they have been involved without making known their identity, thus seeking to evade their responsibilities, either criminal or financial, or both.

A driver, for example, who backs quickly away from an accident for a considerable distance, although there was ample parking space in the immediate area, has been held to evidence an intent to leave the scene of an accident and is in violation of § 1027. Commonwealth v. Lightner, 92 Dauph. 110 (1969). On the other hand, a driver who strikes a utility pole at 2:00 a.m., is unable to rouse any neighbors, and returns home before phoning the police, has been held to evidence an intent to identify himself to the ...


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