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JAMES G. WHITE v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (05/04/81)

decided: May 4, 1981.

JAMES G. WHITE, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James G. White, No. 94 February Term, 1980.

COUNSEL

Frederick O. Brubaker, for appellant.

Harold H. Cramer, Assistant Counsel, with him Ward T. Williams, Chief Counsel, Transportation, and Jay C. Waldman, General Counsel, for appellee.

Judges Rogers, Craig and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 156]

James G. White appeals from an order of the Secretary of Transportation suspending his motor vehicle operating privileges for six months because of

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 157]

    his refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test;*fn1 the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County upheld the order on appeal, but granted a supersedeas pending our decision of the case.

The events leading to appellant's arrest on November 26, 1979 for driving under the influence began when an off-duty police officer observed a green pickup truck driving across his mother-in-law's lawn in Chester County. After notifying the State Police, the officer and his brother-in-law gave chase; they found the truck parked in a driveway three miles down the road. The record indicates that the pursuers did not actually see the appellant driving the vehicle; as they pulled up behind the parked truck, appellant was standing on the porch of the house.

When the arresting officer, a state trooper, arrived shortly thereafter, appellant was leaning against the truck; the trooper testified that he smelled alcohol on appellant's breath, that appellant's eyes were bloodshot and glassy and he was unable to stand on his own. When asked to estimate the time, appellant replied that it was approximately 4:30 in the morning when, in fact, it was 8:00 in the evening. The trooper also observed the appellant get down on his hands and knees, pull up handfuls of grass, and put them in his mouth.*fn2

The trooper placed appellant under arrest, took him to the police barracks and prepared to administer the breathalyzer test. Despite the trooper's warning that refusal to submit to the test would result in a six-month license suspension, appellant would not take the test.

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 158]

Appellant appealed the suspension of his license to the court below, contending that the arresting officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that he was driving under the influence, and ...


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