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APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE DETECTIVE LICENSE LEO A. HARDING (02/18/77)

decided: February 18, 1977.

IN RE APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE DETECTIVE LICENSE OF LEO A. HARDING, APPELLANT


Appeal from Final Order Entered March 29th, 1976, of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Lackawanna County at No. 485, 1976. No. 1526 October Term, 1976.

COUNSEL

Thomas P. Kennedy, Scranton, for appellant.

No appearance entered nor brief submitted for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Price, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Hoffman

[ 246 Pa. Super. Page 181]

Appellant contends that the lower court improperly rejected his application for a private detective's license. We agree and, therefore, remand with a direction that the lower court grant appellant a private detective's license.

On March 3, 1976, appellant filed an application for a private detective's license in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Criminal Division. As part of his application, appellant submitted two letters regarding

[ 246 Pa. Super. Page 182]

    his past work experience. Pennsylvania Auditor General Robert B. Casey wrote that appellant had been employed for over three years in the Department of the Auditor General as a detective in its Bureau of Investigations. Appellant's duties consisted of investigating violations of Pennsylvania law and reporting the results to state enforcement agencies. More specifically, appellant conducted surveillances, collected evidence, contacted informants, examined records, interviewed witnesses, interrogated suspects, and prepared detailed reports of investigations setting forth the evidence, facts, and conclusions. The Chief Counsel to the Auditor General, appellant's immediate superior, submitted a letter confirming the details of appellant's work experience outlined above. The Chief Counsel emphasized the difference between the Bureau of Investigations and other bureaus of the Department of the Auditor General which were primarily engaged in auditing State and State-supported agencies. Appellant also submitted excerpts from his work file documenting the above activities and demonstrating that appellant investigated crimes committed by state contractors and cases involving lost or stolen property.

On March 29, 1976, the lower court rejected appellant's application because it believed that appellant lacked the qualifications required by the Private Detective Act of 1953.*fn1 Section 14 of that Act requires that "[e]very . . . applicant shall establish, to the satisfaction of the court of quarter sessions and by at least two duly acknowledged certificates, that such applicant . . . has been regularly employed as a detective, or shall have been a member of the United States government investigative service, a sheriff, a member of the Pennsylvania State Police, or a member of a city police department of a rank or grade higher than that of patrolman, for a period of not less than three years." The

[ 246 Pa. Super. Page 183]

    lower court concluded that appellant's character is impeccable and his training and experience in mixed investigative work for the Auditor General's Office has been extensive. Appellant also attended 400 hours at a police recruit school at the Harrisburg Area Community College. The lower court conceded that "[t]here is little doubt that petitioner would make an excellent detective," but nevertheless denied his application because he failed to show that he had been "regularly employed as a detective."*fn2 The court cited the following factors in support of its decision: appellant did not have the power to arrest, appellant had to refer cases to the Department of Justice for prosecution, and the Auditor General's inquiries normally concerned accounting matters.

We must determine whether appellant's work experience in the Bureau of Investigations of the Department of the Auditor General is sufficient to establish that he "has been regularly employed as a detective." Our guidelines for this determination are ill-defined: no Pennsylvania appellate court case addresses the scope of this statutory provision and the Private Detective Business Act does not define "detective." However, the ...


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