No. 240 Pittsburgh 1984, APPEAL FROM THE ORDERS ENTERED ON FEBRUARY 23, 1984 IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY, CRIM. DIV. MISC. NOS. 47 AND 66 OF 1984
James D. Elder, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Cirillo, Hoffman and Rosenwald,*fn* JJ.
[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 294]
In 1979, Michael Thomas Hennessy (Hennessy) purchased a 1974 Chevrolet truck from S.M.S. Sales, Inc. (S.M.S.) of Cleveland, Ohio, a company that neighbored Hennessy's business and shared a common parking lot. In consideration for receipt of the truck, Hennessy conveyed to S.M.S. two other vehicles and $2,500.00 in cash. Additionally, Hennessy assumed the outstanding indebtedness on the truck; however, because Hennessy could not finance this debt, S.M.S. continued to make the payments, while Hennessy agreed to provide his personal services to S.M.S. in return. Hennessy took possession of the truck upon sale, although S.M.S. retained possession of the truck's certificate of title.
[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 295]
The Chevrolet truck was stolen from the common parking lot in May, 1981. The theft was reported to the Cleveland police by Edward High, majority shareholder of S.M.S. and one of the parties with whom Hennessy contracted for the purchase of the truck. Sometime later, Edward High recovered the truck but did not report this to anyone. Ostensibly due to certain damage suffered during the theft, High replaced certain parts of the truck with parts from a 1968 GMC truck and then painted the Chevrolet truck a different color. On June 11, 1981, Edward High sold the now hybrid truck to Scheirer Machine Company (Scheirer), of Pennsylvania, and subsequently sent to Scheirer the title, which listed the vehicle as a 1974 Chevrolet truck registered in the name of S.M.S.
High's ex-wife informed the Cleveland police in September, 1983 that the truck could be found at Scheirer's business, in Pennsylvania. In turn, the Pennsylvania State Police were notified, and an investigation into the identification numbers on the truck at Scheirer's business revealed it to be the 1974 truck. Scheirer had improperly registered the truck in Pennsylvania as a 1968 GMC, such being the year and make of the recently added parts. The truck was seized and impounded by the Pennsylvania State Police. Pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 324, the Criminal Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County granted Hennessy's petition to have the seized truck returned to him as rightful owner.
Appellant Scheirer raises three issues for our review:
1) Did the criminal division of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania have jurisdiction to determine to whom property seized pursuant to a search warrant should be returned in the presence of conflicting claims of ownership?
2) Can a record title holder of a motor vehicle act to transfer title to said motor vehicle to a purchaser?
3) Can a good faith purchaser for value of a motor vehicle acquire legal title to a ...