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JOSEPH BECKER (01/27/88)

filed: January 27, 1988.

IN THE INTEREST OF JOSEPH BECKER, A MINOR. APPEAL OF JOSEPH BECKER, A MINOR


Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, of Bucks County, No. 892 Juvenile 1986.

COUNSEL

Michael C. Shields, Norristown, for appellant.

Stephen B. Harris, Assistant District Attorney, Warrington, for Com., appellee.

Cirillo, President Judge, and Wieand and Olszewski, JJ.

Author: Wieand

[ 370 Pa. Super. Page 489]

Joseph Becker, a juvenile, was adjudicated delinquent following a finding that he had operated a motor vehicle in such a manner as to recklessly endanger another person. On appeal from the dispositional order, Becker contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the finding of the hearing court; (2) that the hearing court erred by allowing the petition to be amended to allege that, in addition to a specifically named person, appellant had endangered generally all other drivers on the highway; and (3) that the hearing court's dispositional order violated standards established by the Juvenile Act.*fn1

On the morning of September 8, 1986, Becker and Richard Heller, also a juvenile, were driving separate vehicles to a vocational school where both were taking special classes. While one vehicle appeared to be following the other, both attained speeds of 65-70 m.p.h. as they travelled northwardly, passing other vehicles, on York Road in Warminster, Bucks County, where the speed limit was posted at 45 m.p.h. As the two vehicles approached Ivyland Road, an intersecting street, Heller's vehicle moved into the left lane, entered the intersection in violation of a red traffic signal, and collided with a vehicle being operated on the cross street by Eleanor Capuzzi. As a result of the collision, Mrs. Capuzzi was killed and her two year old son, who with his sister was a passenger, was injured. Appellant was not involved in the accident. He brought his vehicle to a stop in the right lane and did not violate the red light.

Juvenile petitions were filed against both Heller and Becker, and they were heard together.*fn2 Becker was charged with homicide by vehicle*fn3 and recklessly endangering Eleanor Capuzzi.*fn4 At the conclusion of the Commonwealth's

[ 370 Pa. Super. Page 490]

    evidence, a defense demurrer on behalf of appellant was denied by the court. The Commonwealth then moved to amend the petition to allege that Becker had also recklessly endangered other motorists on York Road. This amendment was allowed by the court over objection. The court then found Becker delinquent because he had recklessly endangered other drivers on York Road. At a subsequent dispositional hearing, appellant was directed to provide 350 hours of public service, participate in a program at "Project Self," and pay unspecified costs of counseling for members of the Capuzzi family. His driver's license was suspended indefinitely. Becker appealed. Enforcement of the dispositional order has been stayed pending the outcome of this appeal.

We conclude, after careful review, that the evidence was sufficient to support the court's finding that appellant's reckless conduct generally endangered other drivers. However, we also conclude that it was improper to allow an amendment to the petition during the adjudication hearing which changed the alleged victim of the offense from Mrs. Capuzzi to all other drivers on the highway. Therefore, we reverse and discharge the juvenile appellant.

Appellant was not involved in the collision which killed Mrs. Capuzzi. He did not enter the intersection against the redlight but stopped his vehicle as commanded by the signal. Therefore, it is difficult to find any evidence that he, by the manner in which he drove his vehicle, recklessly endangered the decedent. However, there was ample evidence that he ...


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