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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RONALD PETTINATO (01/12/87)

filed: January 12, 1987.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
RONALD PETTINATO, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of November 15, 1985 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Criminal Division, at No. 8503789.

COUNSEL

Alonzo Burney, McKeesport, for appellant.

Robert L. Eberhardt, Deputy District Attorney, Pittsburgh, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Tamilia, Hoffman and Hester, JJ.

Author: Hoffman

[ 360 Pa. Super. Page 243]

This is an appeal from the judgment of sentence for burglary and conspiracy. Appellant contends that (1) the lower court erred in admitting the complainant's testimony that appellant made an offer of compromise; and (2) the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions. Because these contentions are meritless, we affirm the judgment of sentence.

[ 360 Pa. Super. Page 244]

In March, 1985, appellant was arrested and charged with burglary, conspiracy, and the summary offense of criminal mischief. Following a bench trial, appellant was convicted on all charges. He was sentenced to a three-to-six year term of imprisonment and a five year term of probation, to run consecutively, and this appeal followed.

Appellant first contends that the lower court erred in in allowing the complainant to testify that appellant had made an offer of settlement before trial. Appellant argues that offers of settlement, and any admissions of guilt made during the course of negotiations, are not admissible in a criminal trial. We disagree.

In civil cases, evidence of offers of settlement of compromise are not admissible at trial. Durant v. McKelvey, 187 Pa. Superior Ct. 461, 463, 144 A.2d 527, 529 (1958). "The reasons for the rule are clear. First, the evidence that defendant expressed a desire to settle the case is not really evidence that the defendant was wrong . . . . Secondly, the law favors out of court compromise rather than litigation." Commonwealth v. Terry, 275 Pa. Superior Ct. 184, 186, 418 A.2d 673, 674 (1980). This rule should not, however, apply to criminal cases.*fn1

[ 360 Pa. Super. Page 245]

In a criminal prosecution, the accused's offer to pay money or otherwise "settle" the prosecution will be received against him, because that mode of stopping or obstructing the prosecution would be an unlawful act, and good policy could not encourage that mode of dealing with a criminal charge; hence such an offer is receivable for whatever inference may be drawn from it; subject, of course, to the accused's explanation.

4 Wigmore, Evidence ยง 1061(d)(8)(3d ed.). Thus, an accused's offer to make restitution to the victim is admissible as evidence of the accused's consciousness of guilt. Commonwealth v. Melnyczenko, 238 ...


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