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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JERRY RAY TILLMAN (07/01/83)

decided: July 1, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
JERRY RAY TILLMAN, DONALD E. PHILLIPS, J. LAMAR KREBS, GARY E. DAVIS, RICHARD L. WAGNER, WALTER FOSTER



Nos. 81-3-430, 81-3-431, 81-3-434, 81-3-436, 81-3-439, 81-3-440, Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County, at No. 995 Criminal 1978, and Nos. 611, 758, 825, 826 & 938 Criminal 1980, dated March 18, 1981.

COUNSEL

Edgar B. Bayley, Jr., Dist. Atty., Carlisle, Michael J. McCaney, Jr., Harrisburg, for appellant.

Robert Eckenrode, Williamsport, G. Steven McKonly, James T. Yingst, Hanover, John J. Sylvanus, York, Gerald Hughes, Camp Hill, Richard L. Bush, Philadelphia, for appellees.

Roberts, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Nix, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 501 Pa. Page 396]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellees are tractor-trailer operators who were separately charged under section 4522 of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S. § 4522,*fn1 with having operated their vehicles in violation of

[ 501 Pa. Page 397]

    various Motor Carrier Safety Regulations promulgated by the Federal Highway Administration pursuant to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 304, and the Department of Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. §§ 1653 & 1655. After hearings before district justices, appellees were found guilty and fined pursuant to section 4522(b). In consolidated de novo proceedings, the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County found appellees not guilty, and held section 4522 unconstitutional on the theory that it impermissibly delegates legislative authority to the federal government.

On these appeals, the Commonwealth urges this Court to reject the theory of the court of common pleas and to uphold the constitutionality of section 4522. However, the verdicts of not guilty preclude our consideration of the Commonwealth's appeals. See Commonwealth v. Ray, 448 Pa. 307, 292 A.2d 410 (1972); Commonwealth v. Haines, 410 Pa. 601, 190 A.2d 118 (1963).

"Perhaps the most fundamental rule in the history of double jeopardy jurisprudence has been that '[a] verdict of acquittal . . . could not be reviewed, on error or otherwise, without putting [a defendant] twice in jeopardy, and thereby violating the Constitution.'" United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co., 430 U.S. 564, 572, 97 S.Ct. 1349, 1354, 51 L.Ed.2d 642 (1977), quoting United States v. Ball, 163 U.S. 662, 671, 16 S.Ct. 1192, 1195, 41 L.Ed. 300 (1896). As the Supreme Court of the United States has recently observed, "the factfinder in a criminal case has traditionally been permitted to enter an unassailable but unreasonable verdict of 'not guilty.'" Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 317 n. 10, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2788 n. 10, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). "'[W]e necessarily accord absolute finality to a jury's verdict of acquittal -- no matter how erroneous its decision . . . .'" Bullington v. Missouri, 451 U.S. 430, 442, 101 S.Ct. 1852, 1860, 68 L.Ed.2d 270 (1981), quoting Burks v. United States, 437 U.S. 1, 16, 98 S.Ct. 2141, 2150, 57 L.Ed.2d 1 (1978).

[ 501 Pa. Page 398]

Accord, Commonwealth v. Mitchell, 497 Pa. 14, 17, 438 A.2d 596, 597 (1981). Thus, where a defendant has been found not guilty at trial, he may not be retried on the same offense, "even if the legal rulings underlying the acquittal were erroneous." Sanabria v. United States, 437 U.S. 54, 64, 98 S.Ct. 2170, 2179, 57 L.Ed.2d 43 (1978). As ...


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