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BOROUGH WEST CHESTER v. AMRIT LAL (03/13/81)

decided: March 13, 1981.

BOROUGH OF WEST CHESTER, APPELLEE,
v.
AMRIT LAL, APPELLANT



No. 501 Jan. Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of May 30, 1978 of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania at Commonwealth Court Docket 1088 of 1976 reversing the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County at No. 637 Misc. Term, 1975

COUNSEL

Paul L. Bartholomew, III, Chadds Ford, for appellant.

Ross A. Unruh, Kennett, for appellee.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Roberts, J., files a concurring opinion. Nix, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Larsen

[ 493 Pa. Page 389]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On September 30, 1975, the Borough of West Chester, appellee, swore out a private criminal complaint against Dr. Amrit Lal, charging him with:

Renting an apartment(s) which is not a permitted use in an R-3 Zoning District (West Chester Code § 112-13 et seq.). Renting an apartment(s) for living purposes, in a cellar, which is not permitted (West Chester Code § 112-8). Renting the apartment(s) without having obtained a certificate of occupancy required by the Zoning Ordinance (West Chester Code § 112-54 et seq.) or a building permit required by the Building Code (BOCA Basic Building Code § 113.1).

A summary hearing was held before a district justice on November 7, 1975, at which appellant was found guilty of the charges, fined $900.00 plus costs, and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment.

Appellant filed a notice of appeal from summary conviction and a trial de novo was held on January 28, 1976 before the Honorable Thomas A. Pitt, Jr. of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County. In an opinion filed on May 18, 1976, that court summarized the testimony of the seven witnesses presented by Borough solicitors, reviewed the sections of the various municipal ordinances which appellant had allegedly violated, reasoned that an offense of "renting" was not set forth in those sections, and concluded that the summary charges gave insufficient notice of the offenses alleged. The court then entered the following order:

AND NOW, to wit, this eighteenth day of May 1976, following hearing de novo, consideration of the hearing transcript and of briefs of counsel, and, for the reasons hereinabove stated, we find the defendant not guilty.

[ 493 Pa. Page 390]

The Borough then appealed this determination to the Commonwealth Court, re-captioning the case to read "Borough of West Chester v. Amrit Lal".*fn1 The Commonwealth Court disagreed with the court below as to the characterization of the offenses with which appellant was charged, holding that the ordinances cited did prohibit "renting an apartment" and that appellant had sufficient notice of those offenses. The Commonwealth Court then proceeded to evaluate the evidence in the record, made a factual determination that appellant had "rented" an ...


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