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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. WILLIAM HOOVER (06/14/85)

filed: June 14, 1985.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
WILLIAM HOOVER, JR., APPELLANT



Appeal from the judgment of sentence of July 2, 1984 in the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, Criminal Division, at No. 1983-652.

COUNSEL

Christopher J. Youngs, Meadville, for appellant.

John F. Spataro, Assistant District Attorney, Meadville, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Beck, Popovich and Handler,*fn* JJ.

Author: Beck

[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 375]

Appellant was convicted under section 1543 of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S. § 1543, of driving while his license was suspended. Because the license suspension resulted from a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol ("DUI"), appellant was sentenced to a 90-day prison term and fine of $1000 pursuant to subsection (b) of § 1543, 75 Pa.C.S. § 1543(b), which reads as follows:

(b) Certain offenses. -- Any person who drives a motor vehicle on any highway or trafficway of this Commonwealth at a time when their operating privilege is suspended or revoked as a condition of acceptance of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition for a violation of section 3731 (relating to driving under influence of alcohol or controlled substance) or because of a violation of section 1547(b)(1) (relating to suspension for refusal) or 3731 shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a summary offense and shall be sentenced to pay a fine of $1,000 and to undergo imprisonment for a period of not less than 90 days.

The sole issue raised on appeal is the constitutionality of § 1543(b). For the reasons stated below we affirm.

Appellant argues that § 1543(b) violates the equal protection clause by making an improper classification of "suspension offenders" and imposing a much harsher penalty*fn1 on DUI-related suspension offenders than others, with no rational basis for the distinction. He further argues that the mandatory sentence imposed under § 1543(b) constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, that it violates the separation of powers doctrine by taking away the court's sentencing discretion, and that the mandatory fine violates due process. Finally, he argues that the statute should not be

[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 376]

    applied where the underlying DUI conviction took place before the January 14, 1983 effective date of the "New Drunk Driving Law," Act of December 15, 1982, P.L. 1268, No. 289, §§ 9-11, 75 Pa.C.S. §§ 3731, 3732, 3735. In this context he contends that such application "denies him due process of law by retroactively increasing the legal consequences of his prior guilty plea to driving while intoxicated."

Section 1543(b) was enacted in coordination with the New Drunk Driving Law as part of the legislature's broad response to the serious problem of intoxicated drivers. The economic losses, social disruptions and personal tragedies resulting from drunk driving are well documented and the subject of increasing public awareness. See Commonwealth v. Mikulan, 504 Pa. 244, 470 A.2d 1339 (1983).

Appellant's constitutional challenges to § 1543(b) are without merit for the same reasons that similar constitutional attacks on the New Drunk Driving Law itself have failed. Hoover's equal protection, separation of powers, and cruel and unusual punishment arguments are essentially indistinguishable from those advanced against the mandatory sentencing provisions of 75 Pa.C.S. §§ 3731 and 3735 in Commonwealth v. Hernandez, 339 Pa. Super. 32, 488 A.2d 293 (1985). In Hernandez this court held that the mandatory sentences prescribed by § 3731 did not violate the separation of powers doctrine because the enactment of statutes defining criminal conduct and imposing certain penalties for that conduct is a proper exercise of legislative power. On the cruel and unusual punishment issue, the Hernandez court found that the mandatory sentences for drunk driving comported with current societal standards of decency and held that "[t]he statutes do not impose a penalty so out of proportion to the crimes as ...


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