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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. VERNON BENNETT (06/05/81)

filed: June 5, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
VERNON BENNETT



No. 2050 October Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Trial Division, Criminal Section, Nos. 1451-1452, February Term, 1979.

COUNSEL

Michele A. Goldfarb, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Elaine DeMasse, Assistant Public Defender, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Wickersham, Hoffman and Van der Voort, JJ.

Author: Hoffman

[ 287 Pa. Super. Page 486]

This case requires us to decide whether a statement obtained from an accused in violation of the six-hour rule of Commonwealth v. Davenport, 471 Pa. 278, 370 A.2d 301 (1977), and therefore inadmissible in the Commonwealth's case-in-chief, may be used to impeach the accused's trial testimony. We conclude that such a statement may be used for impeachment purposes.

On February 1, 1979, at 9:45 p. m., defendant-appellee was arrested and taken to the West Detective Division of the Philadelphia Police Department. At about 10:45 p. m., the police obtained a signed, written statement from defendant. Defendant was arraigned at 3:47 the following morning, six hours and two minutes after his arrest.*fn1 He subsequently filed a motion to suppress his statement on the ground that it had been obtained in violation of Commonwealth v. Davenport, supra. The lower court denied the motion. After a

[ 287 Pa. Super. Page 487]

    non-jury trial at which the Commonwealth did not introduce the statement and defendant did not testify, defendant was convicted of rape and simple assault. In post-verdict motions, defendant again challenged the admissibility of his statement. The lower court concluded that it had erred in denying defendant's suppression motion because the statement has been obtained in violation of the Davenport rule. Additionally, the court concluded that statements inadmissible under Davenport should not be used to impeach an accused's trial testimony. Although defendant herein did not testify at trial, the court accepted his argument that he had been prejudiced by its refusal to suppress his statement because his decision not to testify had been based on his fear that the Commonwealth would use the statement to impeach his credibility. The court therefore granted defendant's motion for a new trial. The Commonwealth then took this appeal.

"The Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure require that an individual who is arrested be brought before a judicial officer for preliminary arraignment without unnecessary delay. Pa.R.Crim.P. 122, 130." Commonwealth v. Davenport, 471 Pa. at 282, 370 A.2d at 304. In Commonwealth v. Futch, 447 Pa. 389, 290 A.2d 417 (1972), our Supreme Court held that evidence obtained in violation of the prompt arraignment requirement is inadmissible at trial. The Supreme Court subsequently established a three-part test for determining whether evidence obtained during a prearraignment delay must be suppressed. Commonwealth v. Williams, 455 Pa. 569, 319 A.2d 419 (1974). To eliminate the problems encountered in applying that test, our Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Davenport, supra, established the following rule: "If the accused is not arraigned within six hours of arrest, any statement obtained after arrest but before arraignment shall not be admissible at trial." 471 Pa. at 286, 370 A.2d at 306.

The lower court concluded that defendant's statement should have been suppressed because his preliminary arraignment was not held "within six hours of arrest . . . ."

[ 287 Pa. Super. Page 488]

    view, because of the speculative possibility that impermissible police conduct will be encouraged thereby. Assuming that the exclusionary rule has a deterrent effect on proscribed police conduct, sufficient deterrence flows when the evidence in ...


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