Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, in case of Peter Bradley v. Pennsylvania State Police, No. 13829 of 1971.
Hermann Rosenberger, II, Assistant Attorney General, for appellant.
Frank J. Marcone, for appellee.
Alfred Sarowitz, for intervenor.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Mencer.
This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County which required the Pennsylvania State Police to return within thirty days a 1969 Porsche Targa which had been seized from the appellee, Peter Bradley, under authority of Section 303 of The Vehicle Code, Act of April 29, 1959, P.L. 58, as amended, 75 P.S. § 303.
Bradley filed with the lower court a petition for the return of the Porsche alleging that the car had been seized and withheld by the State Police without any "formal reasons" given therefor. At a subsequent hearing on the matter, Bradley testified that he purchased the car from a David Duerr who in turn had obtained the car from a Stephen Schwartz.
The method of transfer throughout was somewhat complicated. A Rhode Island passenger registration card indicates the car was owned by Schwartz but was sold by him to Duerr on April 15, 1971. Later, after agreeing to sell the car to Bradley, Duerr crossed out his signature on the card and Bradley's name was inserted. Bradley then applied for a certificate of title in Pennsylvania swearing under oath that the car was purchased from Schwartz on April 15, 1971. A note dated April 15, 1971, signed by Duerr and addressed to the Department of Revenue in Harrisburg, was included with the application. It indicated that he, Duerr, was going to purchase the car but changed his mind and crossed out his name. Subsequently a certificate of title was issued to Bradley by the Commonwealth.
The State Police first examined Bradley's Porsche as a result of an investigation which revealed that two stolen Porsches were found in the possession of Schwartz. It was the opinion of the State Police that the Porsche's serial number plates had been tampered
with or restamped. The true serial number was later determined after a number, which is stamped in a confidential location in all Porsches of recent vintage, was sent to the manufacturer in Stuttgart, West Germany. This was corroborated by comparison of the car's transmission number with one on file with the domestic distributor in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Once the true manufacturer's serial number was found, it was determined (by means of a national computer service formed to combat the interstate theft of motor vehicles) that the Porsche had been reported stolen to the New York State Police thirteen days prior to issuance of the Rhode Island registration card to Schwartz and approximately a month before the vehicle's transfer to Bradley. It was also determined that a claim had been made with the New York State Police for return of the vehicle by an insurance company as successor in interest to the original owner.
Testimony at the hearing indicated that Schwartz had been prosecuted for the possession and sale of at least eight other such vehicles, and, furthermore, that an information charging violation of Section 301 of The Vehicle Code, 75 P.S. § 301, had been lodged with a Delaware County ...