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RIDGE AMC/JEEP/RENAULT v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/14/87)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: January 14, 1987.

RIDGE AMC/JEEP/RENAULT, INC., APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, in case of Ridge AMC/Jeep/Renault, Inc. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 5835 February Term, 1985.

COUNSEL

Richard L. Gerson, Gerson, Capek & Voron, for appellant.

Steven P. Miner, Assistant Counsel, with him, Spencer A. Manthorpe, Chief Counsel, and Jay C. Waldman, General Counsel, for appellee.

Judges Craig and Barry, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 175]

Ridge AMC/Jeep/Renault, Inc. (Ridge) appeals here from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 176]

County which affirmed a Department of Transportation (DOT) order suspending its dealer's registration plates for one month.

Ridge sold what it thought was a 1985 Jeep CJ-7 on September 29, 1984 to Carol Liebold, who signed a certificate of title (form MV-1) on that date. She discovered later, however, that the vehicle was actually a 1984 Jeep.*fn1 She notified Ridge of this error but she refused to sign a corrected certificate of title,*fn2 and, because of Ridge's inability to obtain her necessary signature until December 3, 1984, the certificate was not sent to DOT until that time.

At a hearing held on February 5, 1985, DOT found that Ridge had violated Section 1103(d) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1103(d),*fn3 by failing to deliver to DOT, within ten days of the sale, a properly signed certificate of title. DOT further found that Ridge had been

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 177]

    sent a written warning for a similar violation on April 8, 1982.*fn4 Consequently, Ridge had been notified on February 13, 1985 that its dealer's registration plates would be suspended for a period of one month pursuant to Section 1374(a)(5) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1374(a)(5),*fn5 and 67 Pa. Code § 53.9(a)(12).*fn6 On May 13,

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 1781985]

, after a hearing de novo, the common pleas court affirmed DOT's suspension of Ridge's dealer's plates. Ridge then appealed to this Court and filed a petition for supersedeas with the common pleas court. The supersedeas was granted pending our disposition of this matter.*fn7

Ridge contends that, because of the mitigating circumstances present here, DOT abused its discretion in issuing a suspension. In particular, Ridge alleges that it was Ms. Liebold's refusal to accept either a new vehicle or a monetary settlement, and her subsequent refusal to sign a revised certificate, that resulted in the certificate's not having been sent to DOT until December 3, 1984. Alternatively, Ridge contends that, because it violated Section 1103(d) and paid the fifty dollar fine provided for in that section, the penalty provisions of Section 1374(a)(5) and the schedule of penalties promulgated thereunder in Section 53.9, are inapplicable here. We cannot agree.

Ridge had knowledge of the penalty provisions because of a warning it had admittedly received for a prior violation. Moreover, the appellate courts of this state have recognized the value of insuring equal treatment under the law through the application of such schedules. Commonwealth v. Bensing, 12 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 71, 315 A.2d 897 (1974). We cannot find, therefore, that Sections 1374(a)(5) and 53.9(a)(12) are inapplicable here.

Ridge contends that, if Section 1374(a) is applicable, a suspension under that section is discretionary, and not mandatory, because that section provides that a dealer's

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 179]

    license may be suspended. In support of its argument that the mitigating circumstances here require that no suspension be issued, Ridge cites Commonwealth v. Bitner, 20 D. & C. 2d 446 (1959). Bitner requires that extenuating circumstances be taken into consideration; however, it does not require that their mere existence prohibits the imposition of a suspension. And our review of the record indicates that the common pleas court did consider the mitigating circumstances. It stated that Ms. Liebold "refused to sign a new certificate of title due to the error committed by Ridge," and then found that Ridge did commit the violation for which the sanction was imposed.*fn8 Furthermore, there is no indication in the record that Ridge made any attempt to notify DOT of the problem or potential delay in delivering the required certificate. We believe, therefore, that the common pleas court did not abuse its discretion in affirming the one month suspension of Ridge's license, and that its decision is supported by substantial evidence.*fn9

Ridge further contends that it is neither a habitual violator of the statute nor guilty of fraud and that it has caused no financial loss to Ms. Liebold. It, however, has neither been accused of nor found to have committed any of these offenses. Furthermore, we find no indication

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 180]

    in the relevant statutes and rules that these elements are necessary for the imposition of a suspension. We will not, therefore, address these issues.

Ridge's final contention is that the suspension will result in great economic hardship for the dealership. It is the purpose of the penalty provisions, however, to provide a uniform system to deal with dealership violations, and economic hardship alone is insufficient to excuse the violation of the statute. Commonwealth v. Emerick, 373 Pa. 388, 96 A.2d 370 (1953). Furthermore, although some inconvenience will result from its inability to conduct test drives, Ridge will still be able to operate its service department and engage in the sale of new and used cars.

We will, therefore, affirm the order of the court of common pleas.

Order

And Now, this 14th day of January, 1987, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in the above-captioned matter is affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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