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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JEFFREY LYNN GOSNELL (05/18/84)

filed: May 18, 1984.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JEFFREY LYNN GOSNELL, APPELLANT



NO. 317 HARRISBURG 1982, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of York County, No. 44 Criminal Action of 1982. MONTEMURO, J., files a Dissenting Opinion.

COUNSEL

John J. Moran, II, York, for appellant.

Clyde W. Vedder, Assistant District Attorney, York, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wickersham, Del Sole and Montemuro, JJ. Montemuro, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Del Sole

[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 466]

This appeal followed a conviction for failure to properly identify oneself at the scene of an accident as mandated by 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3742(a), (1977).

While driving along a poorly lit road, Appellant struck what he believed to be a large pothole. He had proceeded about two or three blocks before returning to investigate. At the scene, Appellant found the victim, severely injured, lying on the road. He pulled the victim closer to the

[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 467]

    roadside and then ran to a nearby phone and anonymously summoned the police. When the police arrived, the Appellant, giving them his name, address and phone number, told the police that he had seen nothing and was the first to arrive at the scene. Appellant continued to assist the police and paramedics in the victim's care. Six or seven hours after the Appellant had returned home he went to the police and told them it was most likely he who hit the victim, although evidence was presented at trial that one or two other vehicles may have run over the victim.

The issue in this case is whether Appellant, under the facts, violated 75 P.L. § 3744. We find he did not.

Section 3742, whose predecessor was 75 P.S. § 1027, sets forth the general requirements that a person who is involved in a motor vehicle accident, which results in personal injury, stop at or as close to the scene as possible and remain there until the more particular requirements of § 3744 are met, 1976, June 17, P.L. 162 No. 18, § 1, eff. July 1, 1977. Those requirements are that either the injured or the police be given the driver's name, address, and registration number. Also, upon request, the driver should reveal his license and insurance information. Rendering reasonable aid to the victim is also required. Specifically at issue here is whether the Appellant properly made his identity known under the law. In Commonwealth v. Adams, 146 Pa. Super. 601, 23 A.2d 59 (1941), defendant was convicted of failure to render assistance to a person injured in a motor vehicle accident under § 1027. Defendant stopped at the scene where plaintiff had been hit by a car and run over by at least two other vehicles. After seeing plaintiff was being cared for, defendant made his identity known and left the scene. The Court reversed the conviction by saying that only assistance which is "necessary" under the circumstances is required, Adams, 146 Pa. Super. at 608, 23 A.2d at 62. When analyzing the Appellant's behavior under this standard to determine whether it violated the Act, two things must be observed. One, the purpose of the Act must be considered. As the Commonwealth

[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 468]

Court observed in Commonwealth v. Stamoolis, 6 Pa. Commw. 617, 620, 297 A.2d 532, 533 (1972), the aim of the law was at preventing drivers from leaving the scene of an accident and trying to avoid their responsibilities. Second, in applying the law strictly an absurd result must not follow, Stamoolis, 6 Pa. Commw. at 620, 297 A.2d at 533. While the court in Adams spoke of reasonableness in applying the law, the Superior Court in Commonwealth v. Robinson, 254 Pa. Super. 145, 147, 385 A.2d 567, 568 (1978), refused to convict defendant on a technical violation of the law. In that case, defendant's car collided with plaintiff's truck. After the defendant asked the plaintiff to forget the accident and the plaintiff refused, the defendant turned to leave the scene. The court found that regardless of his intentions and a technical violation of the law, defendant did essentially follow the requirements, Robinson, 254 Pa. Super. at 147, 385 A.2d at 568. The defendant in Stamoolis was convicted for failing to stop at the scene after he had driven one and one quarter miles on the same road before he was able to find a place he considered safe to stop. His conviction was reversed. Appellant's behavior in this case also amounted to a substantial fulfillment of the Act. When he first realized he had hit something the origin of which needed to be investigated, Appellant was a few blocks from the scene. He then returned to the scene. In Commonwealth v. Bognar, 217 Pa. Super. 395, 397, 271 A.2d 875, 876 (1970), defendant was convicted for improperly identifying himself at the scene when he held up his license for the plaintiff who could only read the operator's number but not the address. Because the plaintiff didn't ask for further information, the Court found no violation because the "spirit" of the ...


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