Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Nancy A. Williamson, No. 83-01532.
Harold H. Cramer, Assistant Counsel, with him, Spencer A. Manthorpe, Chief Counsel, and Jay C. Waldman, General Counsel, for appellant.
Leigh P. Narducci, Anderson, Narducci & Sullivan, for appellee.
Judges Doyle and Palladino, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
This is an appeal by the Department of Transportation, Bureau of Traffic Safety (DOT) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County sustaining the appeal of Nancy A. Williamson (Appellee) from the six month suspension of her operating privilege by DOT pursuant to Section 1532(b)(2) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1532(b)(2). Section 1532(b)(2) provides, in part, that DOT "shall suspend the operating privilege of any driver for six months upon receiving a certified record of the driver's conviction of a subsequent offense under . . . Section 1501(a) (relating to drivers required to be licensed)."
The facts in this case are somewhat confusing because of the interplay between two different types of suspensions. Accordingly, in an attempt at clarification we shall first examine the two different types of suspensions and then set forth a chronology of the events as they transpired. Section 1532(b)(2) of the Vehicle Code requires that DOT suspend for six months the operating privilege of a driver upon receiving a certified record of a subsequent conviction for, inter alia, driving without a license. Hence, under Section 1532(b)(2) the suspension and its length are mandatory if DOT receives a certified record of a subsequent conviction.
A different type of DOT suspension exists under Section 1533 of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1533. Section 1533 requires DOT to "suspend the operating privilege of any person who has failed to respond to a citation to appear before a court of competent jurisdiction. . . ." Section 1533, in addition, specifically states that the suspension "shall be for an indefinite period until such person shall respond and pay any fines and penalties imposed." (Emphasis added.) Thus, while payment of fines and penalties will operate to avoid or remove a suspension imposed under Section 1533, such payment will not avoid or remove a suspension under Section 1532(b)(2). Moreover, because payment of a fine constitutes a conviction of a violation under Section 6501(b) of the Vehicle Code, such a payment can actually constitute the basis for a mandatory six month suspension under Section 1532(b)(2).
With this preliminary explanation we now proceed to relate the relevant chronology of events; what is involved are three convictions for driving without a license, two resultant suspensions, and two suspensions for failure to respond to citations.
Appellee was first convicted of driving without a license in an incident occurring on March 29, 1980.*fn1 Because this was a first conviction for this offense no suspension penalty was issued under Section 1532(b)(2). Then, on May 6, 1981 Appellee received another
citation for driving without a license. She did not respond to this citation and accordingly she eventually received a notice from DOT, dated November 13, 1981, advising her that her license was scheduled to be suspended on December 4, 1981 for failure to respond to the May 6, 1981 citation. This notice advised Appellee that this suspension could be prevented by obtaining a receipt of payment or discharge from the court named on the notice and mailing the receipt to DOT. The trial court found, and it is undisputed, that Appellee's husband, an attorney, complied with these instructions by paying Appellee's fine and costs and forwarding the receipt to DOT. Accordingly, Appellee's operating privilege was restored on June 9, 1982. But, based on the payment of the fine and costs*fn2 Appellee stood convicted of the violation which had occurred on May 6, 1981. When DOT received notice of this fact it advised Appellee (in a notice dated ...