Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Trial Division, Criminal Section, at No. 884 December Sessions, 1972. No. 450 October Term, 1976.
Eugene A. Spector (Court Appointed), Philadelphia, for appellant.
Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Philadelphia, for appellee.
Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Hoffman, J., files a dissenting opinion in which Jacobs and Spaeth, JJ., join.
[ 242 Pa. Super. Page 32]
The appellant, Alonzo Stevenson, files the instant direct appeal, nunc pro tunc, following his conviction on a charge of operating a motor vehicle with a defaced serial number.*fn1 The sole claim raised by appellant is that the Commonwealth failed to prove that appellant possessed the requisite guilty knowledge or intent to convict him of the crime charged.
[ 242 Pa. Super. Page 33]
The trial record shows that the appellant was stopped on May 17, 1972 by two Philadelphia police officers, after they observed him driving erratically and at an excessive speed. Once stopped, appellant was asked to produce a driver's license and vehicle registration card. Based upon his experience on the police auto theft squad, one of the officers immediately noticed that the vehicle identification number on the card was one that was issued to 1960 Cadillacs and not to models such as the 1972 Cadillac that appellant was driving. Closer examination of the automobile itself revealed that the visible identification numbers had either been removed or altered.
The appellant, when questioned, told police he had borrowed the automobile from one Walter Hill, whose name appeared on the vehicle registration card. Subsequent investigation by police showed not only that the vehicle was stolen, but also disclosed that there was no Walter Hill living at the address shown on the card.
It is evident that the Commonwealth satisfied its burden of establishing sufficient mens rea of the crime charged. Direct evidence of an accused's state of mind is often not available where intent or guilty knowledge must be shown in order to sustain a conviction. Thus, it is well established that criminal intent or guilty knowledge may be inferred where facts and evidence are such as to show that element of the crime. See generally Commonwealth v. Tyrone Williams, Pa. , 362 A.2d 244 (filed July 27, 1976); Commonwealth v. Shaffer, 447 Pa. 91, 288 A.2d 727 (1973). In the instant case, the coalescence of several facts supply clearly sufficient evidence of the necessary intent or knowledge. The appellant was caught driving a stolen car with altered identification numbers. He presented fraudulent cards in a clear effort to further conceal the true ownership and identity of the vehicle. These documents contained the altered, rather than the real identification numbers. Moreover, the reputed "owner" listed on the cards was, from all
[ 242 Pa. Super. Page 34]
proof available at trial, completely fictitious. The appellant's evasive conduct and attempt to mislead police is clear evidence of deceptive intent to conceal the infirmities in the car's identification. Such conduct can certainly be considered probative in evaluating the state of mind of the accused. Commonwealth v. White, 233 Pa. Super. 195, 334 A.2d 757 (1975). In our view, this ...