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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JOSEPH MARTIN FRYE (03/26/85)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: March 26, 1985.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF TRAFFIC SAFETY, APPELLANT
v.
JOSEPH MARTIN FRYE, APPELLEE. JOSEPH M. FRYE, APPELLANT V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE

Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Joseph M. Frye, No. 2468 S 1982.

COUNSEL

Glenn R. Davis, Assistant Counsel, with him, Harold H. Cramer, Assistant Counsel, Spencer A. Manthorpe, Chief Counsel, and Jay C. Waldman, General Counsel, for appellant/appellee, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

John Adam Matlawski, with him, Jane G. Penny and Smith B. Gephart, Killian & Gephart, for appellee/appellant, Joseph Martin Frye.

President Judge Crumlish and Judges Rogers, Craig, MacPhail, Doyle, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr. Judge Colins dissents. Judge Williams, Jr., did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Crumlish

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 381]

Joseph Frye and the Department of Transportation (DOT) cross appeal a Dauphin County Common Pleas Court order. We affirm the five-year license revocation; we reverse the nullification of an additional two-year revocation.

In a single night, Frye committed four serious violations of the Vehicle Code.*fn1 Upon his conviction

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 382]

    on these offenses, DOT revoked Frye's driver's license for consecutive terms of six months, six months,*fn2 five years, and two years. The latter revocations of five years and two years were ordered pursuant to Section 1542 of the Code.*fn3 The Common Pleas Court dismissed

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 383]

Frye's appeal of the five-year revocation but sustained his appeal of the additional two-year revocation.

In his appeal to this Court, Frye contends that the five-year revocation for habitual traffic offenders only takes effect when a driver has committed offenses enumerated in Section 1542(b) of the Code*fn4 on three separate, unconnected points in time. He thus claims immunity from this revocation because his violations all occurred on one evening. We find no merit in this argument.

This Court has consistently held that the five-year habitual offender revocation takes effect whenever there are three convictions on Section 1542(b) offenses, regardless of whether these offenses are committed within a narrow time frame or on separate occasions. See, e.g., Melcher v. Commonwealth, 58 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 634, 428 A.2d 773 (1981). This line of cases is firmly grounded on the legislature's clear intent to classify as a habitual offender a driver who commits three enumerated violations "either singularly or in combination " (emphasis added).*fn5 Neither the common usage of the word "habitual" nor the statements of individual legislators can supplant this unambiguous expression of the General Assembly's will. See Department of Transportation, Bureau of Traffic Safety v. Auman, 59 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 468, 430 A.2d 373 (1981).

In its appeal now before us, DOT contends that the Common Pleas Court erred in sustaining Frye's challenge to the additional two-year revocation under Section 1542(e). We agree.

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 384]

The court below relied on its earlier decision in Commonwealth v. Orwan, 103 Dauph. 169 (C.P. Pa. 1981).*fn6 The Dauphin County Common Pleas Court in Orwan held that a driver is only subject to the additional two-year suspension for a fourth offense when, at the time he commits it, he has already been convicted on three other Section 1542(b) offenses. The court's rationale was that since the two-year revocation is added on to the five-year revocation, and since the latter revocation requires convictions on three offenses, Section 1542(e) is only triggered by conduct occurring after these convictions.

While such deductive reasoning might be appropriate if the statute's language failed to unequivocally communicate the legislative design, we do not face that situation. Section 1542(e) plainly mandates a two-year revocation whenever "[a]ny additional offense [is] committed within a period of five years."*fn7 Since Section 1542's overall purpose is to penalize those who repeatedly transgress the motor vehicle law over a five-year period of time, subsection (e) serves to impose an increased sanction on a driver whose rate of offenses over this period exceeds that required for the five-year revocation.

The legislature has authorized a five-year revocation when three enumerated offenses are perpetrated, whether singularly or in combination, within five years of one another. Melcher. Section 1542(e) being devoid of any language evidencing a contrary intent, we hold that a fourth offense committed at any time within the same five-year period, whether or not preceded by prior convictions on the other violations, subjects one to a supplemental two-year revocation of operating

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 385]

    privileges. Therefore, Frye's license was properly revoked for an additional two years.

Affirmed in part; reversed in part.

Order

The order of the Dauphin County Common Pleas Court, No. 2468 S 1982 dated September 7, 1982, is affirmed as to the five-year license revocation and reversed as to the additional two-year license revocation. The order of the Bureau of Traffic Safety dated June 22, 1982, imposing an additional two-year license revocation is reinstated.

Judge Colins dissents.

Judge Williams, Jr., did not participate in the decision in this case.

Disposition

Order affirmed as to five year revocation and reversed as to additional two year revocation. Additional two year revocation reinstated.


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