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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RICHARD J. CANTANESE (11/17/87)

decided: November 17, 1987.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF DRIVER LICENSING, APPELLANT
v.
RICHARD J. CANTANESE, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Richard J. Cantanese, No. S.A. 1702 of 1984.

COUNSEL

Christopher J. Clements, Assistant Counsel, with him, Harold H. Cramer, Assistant Counsel, Spencer A. Manthorpe, Chief Counsel, and Henry G. Barr, General Counsel, for appellant.

Dennis J. Clark, for appellee.

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

Author: Doyle

[ 111 Pa. Commw. Page 129]

This is an appeal by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County reversing a DOT action suspending the operating privileges of Richard J. Cantanese (Licensee) for refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test pursuant to Section 1547 of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1547. We reverse.

After being involved in a hit-and-run collision, Licensee was requested to take a blood-alcohol test by the arresting officer and he refused. DOT subsequently

[ 111 Pa. Commw. Page 130]

    suspended his operating privileges for one year. Upon Licensee's appeal, the trial court overturned the suspension, reasoning as follows:

We held Defendant not guilty of the accusation that he was operating an automobile under the influence of intoxicants for the reason that there was no proof that he had been operating an automobile while intoxicated or otherwise. Since the sole purpose of demanding that operators submit to tests for blood, breath, or urine is to obtain evidence to convict them of driving under the influence of intoxicants or other controlled substances, no penalty can or should be assessed against them for refusing to take tests which would be to no avail.

Trial Court Op. at 2. DOT subsequently brought this appeal.*fn1

The reasoning of the trial court was erroneous. In order to justify the suspension of a motorist's privilege for refusal to submit to a chemical test, it is only necessary for the arresting officer to have "reasonable grounds" to believe the person charged with the violation had been driving while intoxicated. 75 Pa. C.S. § 1547(a); Department of Transportation, Bureau of Traffic Safety v. Schultz, 25 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 598, 360 A.2d 754 (1976). If a reasonable person in the position of the police officer, viewing the facts and circumstances as ...


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