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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RUSSELL SHANER ADAMS (09/10/80)

decided: September 10, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF TRAFFIC SAFETY, APPELLANT
v.
RUSSELL SHANER ADAMS, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Russell Shaner Adams, No. SA 185 of 1978.

COUNSEL

Harold H. Cramer, Assistant Attorney General, with him Bradley L. Mallory and Ward T. Williams, Assistant Attorneys General, and Edward G. Biester, Jr., Attorney General, for appellant.

No appearance for appellee.

Judges Mencer, Rogers and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.

Author: Williams

[ 53 Pa. Commw. Page 637]

This is an appeal by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Department) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County which reversed the Department's suspension of the motor vehicle operating privilege of Russell Shaner Adams, the instant appellee.

On September 17, 1977, Adams was involved in an accident while driving his automobile. However, he failed to stop his vehicle and remain at the scene, as required by Section 3743(a) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 3743(a). According to Adams he was unaware of the accident at the time of the occurrence; and he surrendered himself to local police the next day. Several days later, a district justice issued a citation formally charging Adams with the violation of the Vehicle Code. Without contesting the citation Adams paid the statutory fine. As a result, the Department suspended his license pursuant to Section 1532(b)(1) of the Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1532(b)(1).

[ 53 Pa. Commw. Page 638]

At the appeal hearing before the lower court, Adams testified that the local police had forewarned him that the citation would be issued. He further testified that the police led him to believe that if he paid the fine there would be "no further implications." Based on that testimony the lower court found that the local police had "misled" Adams to pay the fine, and sustained his appeal.

It must be said that it is difficult for us to imagine by what process the lower court found that Adams had been "misled" by the local police. Adams himself testified before the court that he probably knew, when he spoke to the police about the impending citation, that they had no control over the suspension of his license. However, we need not make the lower court's treatment of the evidence an element of our decision in this case.

Section 6501(b) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 6501(b), provides:

A payment by any person charged with a violation of this title of the fine prescribed for the violation is a plea of guilty. (Emphasis added.)

Thus, by paying the fine Adams had entered a plea of guilty to the violation charged. The sum of his argument to the lower court that his conviction, for which his license was suspended, was based on a guilty plea not knowingly and intelligently entered because he had been "misled" by ...


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