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COMMONWEALTH v. TRIMBLE (02/02/73)

decided: February 2, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
TRIMBLE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Donald J. Trimble, No. 112 August Term, 1971.

COUNSEL

Justin K. McCarthy, for appellant.

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 appellee.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Crumlish

[ 7 Pa. Commw. Page 444]

In this non-point system case, appellant challenges the constitutionality of Section 618 of the The Vehicle

[ 7 Pa. Commw. Page 445]

Code*fn1 alleging that this section violates due process because it authorizes the suspension of a license with or without a departmental hearing. Appellant also contends that the misdemeanor involved in this factual setting is not one which warrants suspension and that the Secretary of Transportation abused his discretion in suspending appellant's operating privileges under all the facts and circumstances.

The undisputed facts are that appellant, a truck driver who had been licensed in Pennsylvania for over thirty years, was arrested in April of 1970 and charged with a violation of Section 601 of The Vehicle Code, 75 P.S. § 601 (operating a motor vehicle without an operator's license). He pleaded guilty to the charge and paid a fine and costs. He was again arrested and charged with the same violation in November of 1970 and again pleaded guilty. As a second offense, this violation was a misdemeanor under § 601(a) of The Vehicle Code as it was then in force.

On August 26, 1971 appellant was officially notified by the Secretary of Transportation that his operating privileges were suspended for a one year period effective September 10, 1971 under the provisions of § 618(a)(2) of The Vehicle Code, 75 P.S. § 618(a)(2), which authorizes the Secretary to suspend operating privileges upon receipt of a record of proceedings in which the operator pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in the commission of which a motor vehicle was used.

A timely appeal was taken from this action of the Secretary and the appeal acted as a supersedeas of the suspension by order of the court dated September 9, 1971. After a hearing de novo before the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Judge Alfred Williams dismissed the appeal. We are of the opinion that the order of the lower court must be affirmed.

[ 7 Pa. Commw. Page 446]

The same procedure as was used in this case was attacked on constitutional grounds in Commonwealth v. Grindlinger, 7 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 347, 300 A.2d 95 (Filed: February 1, 1973). There, interpreting Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535 (1971), Jennings v. Mahoney, 404 U.S. 25 (1971) and Reese v. Kassab, 334 F. Supp. 744 (W.D. Pa. 1971), we held that the procedure involved in that case (which is identical to that used in the instant case) was not constitutionally improper because the appellant was afforded a de novo ...


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