No. 54 October Term, 1979, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Criminal Division, No. 716 of 1978
Thomas G. Klingensmith, Lancaster, for appellant.
Edward F. Browne, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, Lancaster, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Hester, Hoffman and Catania, 418 Pa. Super. * JJ.
[ 276 Pa. Super. Page 38]
This is an appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Criminal Division. The procedural history and facts relevant to the issues on appeal are as follows:
Appellant was involved in a one-car accident at the intersection of Rockland and North Streets in the city of Lancaster. Upon arrival of the city police, appellant was observed lying outside the vehicle. The investigating officer noticed an odor of alcohol on appellant's breath as he was assisting in the administration of first aid. There were skidmarks approximately 35 feet in length leading up to a stop sign which had been knocked to the ground indicating that the
[ 276 Pa. Super. Page 39]
vehicle had been driven in excess of the speed limit. After leaving the accident scene, the police stopped at the station in order to pick up a portable breathalyzer, before questioning appellant at the hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital, appellant stated he was the operator of the vehicle. During appellant's jury trial on the charge of Operating a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor (75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3731), this statement was admitted over objection by appellant.
Appellant contends an extra-judicial admission or confession may not be introduced until the corpus delicti of operating under the influence is first established by independent evidence. Commonwealth v. Stoltzfus, 462 Pa. 43, 337 A.2d 873 (1975); Commonwealth v. Butts, 204 Pa. Super. 302, 204 A.2d 481 (1964); Commonwealth v. Gomino, 200 Pa. Super. 160, 188 A.2d 784 (1963). "This rule is rooted in a hesitancy to convict one of crime on the basis of his own statements only." Commonwealth v. Ware, 459 Pa. 334, 365, 329 A.2d 258, 274 (1974).
"The grounds on which the rule rests are the hasty and unguarded character which is often attached to confessions and admissions and the consequent dangers of a conviction where no crime has in fact been committed . . . ." Commonwealth v. Turza, 340 Pa. 128, 134, 16 A.2d 401, 404 (1940).
The "corpus delicti" rule has been applied in cases involving misdemeanors. Com. v. Bufalini, 200 Pa. Super. 85, 186 A.2d 645 (1962). An admission as applied to criminal cases has been defined as a "statement by defendant of a fact or facts pertinent to the issues, and tending, in connection with proof of other facts or circumstances, to prove the guilt, * * * but which is, of itself, insufficient to authorize conviction; it is a circumstance which requires the aid of further testimony to generate a reasonable conclusion of guilt." ...