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COMMONWEALTH v. GRASSMYER (12/01/75)

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: December 1, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
GRASSMYER, APPELLANT

Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, No. 226 of 1974, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Donald R. Grassmyer.

COUNSEL

William E. Moot, for appellant.

No appearance entered nor brief submitted for Commonwealth, appellee.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Price, J. Hoffman, Cercone, and Spaeth, JJ., concur in the result.

Author: Price

[ 237 Pa. Super. Page 475]

Appellant was found guilty of violation of Section 903(a) of The Vehicle Code,*fn1 which prohibits operating a motor vehicle exceeding the prescribed weight limitations, and sentenced to pay a fine of $1,200. Appellant contends that his conviction should not be permitted to stand because it was based on evidence obtained as a result of an illegal arrest. Section 903 is enforced by Section 904(a)*fn2 which provides that "[a]ny peace officer who shall be in uniform, and shall exhibit his badge or other sign of authority," may require the weighing of a vehicle which he believes to be overweight. Appellant argues that at the time of the initial stop, the State Police Officer did not "exhibit his badge or other sign of authority." Although this subject has been considered by the lower courts in several cases, to date no appellate court of the Commonwealth has addressed this question. We are convinced that appellant's contention is without merit and, therefore, affirm the judgment of the lower court.

The facts are not in dispute and may be very briefly summarized as follows: On February 19, 1974, appellant was cited by Corporal Ray Antram of the Pennsylvania State Police for violation of Section 903. At the time of the incident, Corporal Antram was driving a marked State Police car and was wearing the traditional gray uniform that so readily identifies an officer of the Pennsylvania State Police. In addition, the corporal had shoulder patches and a name plate on the uniform, and he was also wearing the standard hat with official insignia. He was not wearing his badge, as that is not required by State Police Regulations. This appeal raises the sole question of whether there were sufficient "other sign[s]

[ 237 Pa. Super. Page 476]

    of authority" to satisfy the requirements of Section 904(a).

It is fundamental that the object of all interpretations and constructions of laws is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the legislature.*fn3 In ascertaining that intention, we will presume that the legislature intends to favor the public interest as against the private interest.*fn4

The obvious intention of the legislature in enacting Sections 903 and 904 is to control the gross weight of vehicles operating on Pennsylvania's highways. Society has a legitimate interest in this regulation in an effort to save lives and avoid property damage. An overloaded vehicle is more difficult to control, thus the chances of an accident are increased, and road surfaces and underground pipes are often damaged by the excessive weight placed on them. Also, the intention of the legislature in requiring a badge or other sign of authority is to enable the motorist to be as certain as possible that the person who stops him is, in fact, a police officer.

We must assume that the legislature does not use superfluous language in a statute, Baumer Motor Vehicle Operator License Case, 212 Pa. Superior Ct. 372, 243 A.2d 472 (1968). In addition, all penal provisions of a law shall be strictly construed,*fn5 and all non-penal provisions of a law shall be liberally interpreted.*fn6 Therefore, although we must conclude that the language "in uniform, and shall exhibit his badge or other sign of authority," means that "other sign of authority" is something different than the uniform, this is not a penal provision of the statute and will be liberally interpreted to give effect to the goals of the statute. Commonwealth v. Monumental Properties, Inc., 459 Pa. 450, 329 A.2d 812 (1974);

[ 237 Pa. Super. Page 477]

Appellant does not contend that he was unsure that Corporal Antram was in fact a State Police Officer. Nor does he contend that he requested to see Corporal Antram's badge. He does not even contend that there were inadequate grounds for the officer to stop him or that the weight was incorrect. Appellant was sufficiently impressed by the obvious authority of the officer to stop in the first place.

While we express no opinion as to cases dealing with local police forces, we hold that a uniformed State Police Officer, wearing hat, official insignia, name plate, and shoulder patches exhibits sufficient other signs of authority to satisfy the goals of the statute and the intention of the legislature.

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

Disposition

Judgment of sentence affirmed.


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