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JOHN JOSEPH GARDINI (11/22/76)

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: November 22, 1976.

IN RE JOHN JOSEPH GARDINI, APPELLANT

COUNSEL

John H. English, Asst. Public Defender, Hollidaysburg, for appellant.

Frederick B. Gieg, Jr., Hollidaysburg, for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ.

Author: Price

[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 339]

On November 19, 1975, the appellant, John Joseph Gardini, appeared before the Juvenile Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County and pleaded guilty to a charge of burglary. The lower court adjudicated the appellant, then sixteen years of age, a delinquent child and ordered, inter alia, that he pay a fine in the amount of $200 to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The appellant contends that the court below acted without authority in imposing a fine upon him. We agree with this contention and therefore vacate the order of disposition.

[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 340]

Section 50-322 of the Juvenile Act*fn1 delimits the scope of discretion of a lower court in formulating an order of disposition after finding a child to be delinquent. Specifically, Section 50-322 provides that:

"If the child is found to be a delinquent child the court may make any of the following orders of disposition best suited to his treatment, supervision, rehabilitation, and welfare:

(1) Any order authorized . . . for the disposition of a deprived child.*fn2 (2) Placing the child on probation . . . under conditions and limitations the court prescribes.

(3) Committing the child to an institution, youth development center, camp, or other facility for delinquent children operated under the direction or supervision of the court or other public authority and approved by the Department of Public Welfare.

(4) Committing the child to an institution operated by the Department of Public Welfare or special facility for children operated by the Department of Justice.

The Commonwealth argues that Section 50-322 does not limit the lower court to the four listed orders of disposition because of the use of the word "may" in the wording of the statute. This argument is untenable. The Section clearly confines the discretion of the lower court to choosing the most appropriate of the four enumerated orders of disposition in a particular situation.*fn3 To rule

[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 341]

    otherwise would not only distort the express provisions of Section 50-322, but also ignore the underlying purpose of the Juvenile Act.*fn4

In Holmes' Appeal, 379 Pa. 599, 109 A.2d 523 (1954), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court explained that:

"The proceedings in such a [Juvenile Court] are not in the nature of a criminal trial but constitute merely a civil inquiry or action looking to the treatment, reformation and rehabilitation of the minor child. Their purpose is not penal but protective . . . . The State is not seeking to punish an offender but to salvage a boy who may be in danger of becoming one, and to safeguard his adolescent life. Even though the child's delinquency may result from the commission of a criminal act the State extends to such a child the same care and training as to one merely neglected, destitute or physically handicapped." Id. at 603-04, 109 A.2d at 525.

There can be no doubt that the lower court sought to punish the appellant for his actions by fining him. "A fine is a pecuniary punishment imposed by a court for an

[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 342]

    offense." Commonwealth ex rel. Saeger v. Dressell, 174 Pa. Super. 39, 42, 98 A.2d 430, 432 (1953), quoting Commonwealth v. Ciccone, 84 Pa. Super. 224, 227 (1924); Black's Law Dictionary 759 (4th ed. 1968). We find the penal directive of the lower court to be contrary to the protective procedures prescribed by the Juvenile Act. We therefore reverse the order of disposition of the lower court with a procedendo.


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