June 22, 1984
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
RICHARD ORGANISCAK, APPELLANT
No. 598 Pittsburgh, 1982, Appeal from the judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Criminal Nos. 1318 and 1319 of 1981 and No. 195 of 1982.
Before Rowley, Johnson and Popovich, JJ.
Judgments of sentence affirmed.
IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF WASHINGTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA CRIMINAL DIVISION
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA VS. RICHARD J. ORGANISCAK
NOS. 1318 and 1319 of 1981 and NO. 195 of 1982
Opinion OF THE COURT
June 25, 1982
The defendant, Organiscak, having appealed from the court's order of May 7, 1982, to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, this opinion is written in support of the order.
The defendant Organiscak, was charged with four violations of the Vehicle Code: (1) failure to stop when approaching a stop sign (75 Pa. C.S.A. § 3323 (b)); (2) fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer (75 Pa. C.S.A. § 3733 (a)); (3) reckless driving in Centerville Borough (75 Pa. C.S.A. § 3714); and, (4) reckless driving in West Pike Run Township.
After hearing, this court found that the charge of reckless driving in West Pike Run Township merged with the reckless driving charge in Centerville Borough and dismissed the reckless driving charge at No. 1324 of 1981. The court, after hearing, found the defendant guilty of the other three charges. Post trial motions were filed and argued before this court. The court dismissed the defendant's motion for a new trial and in arrest of judgment, and imposed a fine of $200.00 on the charge of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, and $25.00, each, on the summary offenses at No. 1318 of 1981 and No. 1319 of 1981.
At the hearing before this court, Officer Simon, a police officer of the Borough of Centerville, testified that about 7:40 P.M. on November 27, 1981, he and a fellow officer were parked in a police vehicle near the northwest corner of the intersection of Malden Road and U.S. Route 40 in Centerville Borough. An official stop sign is in place on Malden Road about thirty-five feet north of U.S. Route 40. Officer Simon observed a motor vehicle traveling on Malden Road approach U.S. Route 40 and stop. He then observed the defendant motorist approach the stop sign, drive past it and without stopping, turn to his right through a gravel parking area, and then turn west onto Route 40 in the path of an oncoming west bound motorist.
Officer Simon decided to cite the defendant for failing to stop at the intersection. The officers waited for the west bound motorist to go by; they then entered upon Route 40, passed the west bound motorist, and caught up to the rear of the defendant's vehicle about three-tenths of a mile west of the intersection. The officers activated the red flashing light on their police vehicle, at which time the defendant increased his speed from about fifty miles an hour to about seventy miles an hour; the police officers immediately activated their siren, and chased the defendant with red light on, and siren going, for about seven-tenths of a mile, at which point the vehicles entered into West Pike Run Township on Route 40.
Shortly after entering West Pike Run Township the defendant's vehicle slowed to pass another west bound motorist, and about four-tenths of a mile into West Pike Run Township, the defendant suddenly applied his brakes, leaving over fifty feet of skid marks. At this point, U.S. Route 40 is a two lane highway, and east bound traffic was approaching; the police officer applied his brake, but was unable to avoid a collision with the rear of the defendant Organiscak's vehicle.
Officer Harris of the West Pike Run Police Department was called to the scene; the defendant, being a non-resident of Pennsylvania was then transported to the Centerville Borough building. Magistrate Tempest, the night magistrate on duty, was called by the police. The defendant was informed that if he wished an immediate hearing on the charges, he would be taken to Magistrate Tempest's office. The defendant said he was guilty of the charges, and wished to pay the fines, but did not have sufficient money to pay the fine for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. Magistrate Tempest told the police officer to take the defendant's money if he wished to pay the fines, and hand deliver it to Magistrate Quail of Centerville Borough, and allow the defendant to mail a check for the remainder of the fine to Magistrate Quail. The defendant agreed to pay the fine for three of the citations. He was given a receipt for the money paid, and the police officers turned the money over to the magistrate the following Monday, and in accordance with Section 6305 of the Vehicle Code, the defendant's monies were accompanied by a form, signed by the defendant, stating that he pled guilty to the violations. Officer Simon testified that during the entire pursuit, the defendant went from one side of the highway to the other, and at times he was directly in the center of both lanes, also, at times partly off the paved portion of the roadway, on the berm.
Officer Harris of the West Pike Run Police Department testified that upon arrival at the accident scene he talked to Officer Simon, and then talked with the defendant alone, in front of the defendant's auto, and at that time the defendant told Officer Harris he did attempt to flee while the police were in pursuit; that the reason he applied his brakes abruptly was because he was unable to pass another vehicle in front of him, because of oncoming traffic.
The defendant, Organiscak, age 23, of Cleveland, Ohio, testified that he was in Centerville Borough helping his brother-in-law to move, and at the time of the incident he was going to his parents' home in Bentleyville, Pennsylvania. He claimed that he approached the stop sign at the intersection of Malden Road and U.S. Route 40; that the vehicle in front of him was stopped with his left blinker on; that he stopped alongside the first vehicle and observed traffic on U.S. Route 40, and then turned right into the west bound land ahead of an oncoming west bound motorist; that he then proceeded on U.S. Route 40 at about fifty miles an hour until he came to another vehicle going slower than fifty miles per hour.
He accelerated his vehicle to seventy miles per hour to pass, and then decelerated. At that time he noticed another vehicle behind him had also passed the same vehicle. He saw it was a police vehicle; and saw the vehicle turn on its red light. Organiscak began to slow his vehicle to get off the highway. He believed the police vehicle was chasing another vehicle. He was going about forty miles an hour and applying his brakes to slow down when he was struck from behind.
He denied skidding, and claimed that his vehicle could not leave any skid marks because of difficulties with his motor. He denied weaving across both lanes of the highway, denied being on the berm, denied that he told Officer Harris that he was trying to elude or flee the police, and claimed that he was given an ultimatum to admit guilt or be arrested and placed in jail.
The only testimony in this case came from the two officers and the defendant. This court finds the testimony of the officers to be more credible. The defendant admitted to a speed of seventy miles per hour, yet claimed he had no idea that red lights and siren of the police car were directed at him. The court also finds incredible the defendant's claim that his vehicle was unable to leave skid marks on the highway.
The court finds only one issue of law, in this matter, which merits any discussion. The defendant has cited the case, Commonwealth v. Dandar, 249 Pa. Super. 327, 378 A.2d 319 (1977) for the proposition that if a motorist drives off the paved portion of the highway, goes around the stop sign instead of through it, and does not enter the main road at the intersection, he is not guilty of violating the failure to stop provision of the Vehicle Code.
Dandar was charged with a violation of the Vehicle Code on September 24, 1975. At that time, the Vehicle Code said this:
"Section 1016 (b) of the Vehicle Code in its operative language provides:
'It shall be unlawful for the driver or operator of any vehicle . . ., before entering a stop intersection to fail to come to a full stop, within a reasonable distance, before entering the intersection, when an official 'STOP' sign or signs have been erected in accordance with the provisions of this act.'"
However, the Vehicle Code provision if effect at the time of this defendant's violation says this:
". . . every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop sign shall stop . . . at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering . . ." 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 3323 (b).
Under the former Vehicle Code, it was a violation to fail to stop before entering the intersection. Under the present Code, it is a violation to fail to stop at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway when a driver approaches a stop sign.
In the instant case, the defendant failed to stop, not only when approaching the stop sign, but never stopped even after passing the stop sign and before entering on U.S. Route 40 Dandar is not apposite.
Samuel L. Rodgers, J.
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