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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. MICHAEL MASTERSON (02/15/80)

filed: February 15, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
MICHAEL MASTERSON, APPELLANT



No. 1919 October Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Criminal Division, at No. 293 June Term, 1977

COUNSEL

William H. R. Casey, Richboro, for appellant.

Mark Gottlieb, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Cercone, President Judge, and Watkins and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Cercone

[ 275 Pa. Super. Page 167]

The instant appeal arises from the refusal of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, pursuant to the Crimes Code, 18 Pa.C.S. § 110 (1973), to quash the complaint charging appellant with involuntary manslaughter. It is appellant's position that his discharge at a Philadelphia Traffic Court hearing on the charge of disregarding a red light constitutes an acquittal within the meaning of Section 110, so that he may not be prosecuted for the charge of involuntary manslaughter arising from the episode. We disagree and will affirm.

[ 275 Pa. Super. Page 168]

On the night of March 18, 1977, appellant was operating his car in Philadelphia when it collided with the broadside of a taxicab at the corner of Jasper Street and Allegheny Avenue. Witnesses at the scene when the police arrived reported that appellant had ignored a traffic signal and struck the cab which had the right of way. Most unfortunately, two days later one of the passengers in the taxi died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.

Four days after the passenger's death, the Philadelphia Police issued a summons charging appellant with disregarding a traffic signal, a summary offense under the old Motor Vehicle Code, 75 P.S. § 1028(a) (1959), and the case was listed for hearing before the Philadelphia Traffic Court on May 17, 1977. At that time, after the witnesses were sworn, the police officer in charge of the prosecution informed the court that he could not proceed because the only witness for the Commonwealth present had not actually seen the accident occur and, therefore, could only offer hearsay testimony concerning whether the traffic signal was red, yellow or green. Consequently, appellant was discharged.

The very next day, May 18, 1977, the police interviewed a teenage boy who had been present when the accident occurred and would testify that appellant disregarded a red light.*fn1 Consequently, on May 26, 1977, the Commonwealth filed the criminal complaint charging appellant with the misdemeanors of involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person pursuant to the Crimes Code, 18 Pa.C.S. §§ 2504 & 2705 (1973). These being crimes carrying potentially maximum sentences of less than five years, the case initially fell within the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia Municipal Court.

Alert to the possibility that appellant's discharge on the summary offense might constitute an acquittal within the meaning of Section 110 of the Crimes Code, counsel promptly

[ 275 Pa. Super. Page 169]

    filed a motion to quash the misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter. Thereafter, a hearing was held on the motion to dismiss in Municipal Court, and the motion was denied. On appeal to the Court of Common Pleas, the Municipal Court order was affirmed and appellant perfected the instant appeal before this court.

Crimes Code § 110 provides in pertinent part as follows: "When prosecution barred by former prosecution for different offense

Although a prosecution is for violation of a different provision of the statutes than a former prosecution or is based on different facts, it is barred by such former ...


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