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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JOHN J. TERRERI (03/02/88)

decided: March 2, 1988.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF DRIVER LICENSING, APPELLANT
v.
JOHN J. TERRERI, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. John J. Terreri, No. S.A. 338 of 1986.

COUNSEL

Harold H. Cramer, Assistant Counsel, with him, Spencer A. Manthorpe, Chief Counsel, for appellant.

James M. Ecker, Ecker, Ecker & Ecker, for appellee.

Judges Craig, Palladino, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 209]

The Department of Transportation (DOT) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, reversing DOT's suspension of the motor vehicle license of John Terreri for his refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test.*fn1 We reverse.

The facts as found by the trial court are as follows. Terreri drove his vehicle over a cliff. A police officer arrived at the scene of the accident and observed Terreri climbing up the hillside. While interviewing Terreri concerning the accident, the officer detected a strong odor of alcohol on his breath and observed that Terreri staggered and slurred his speech. Terreri refused any medical assistance and refused to be transported to the hospital. The officer concluded that Terreri had operated the vehicle while intoxicated, and placed him under arrest.

The officer transported Terreri to the police station to conduct a breathalyzer test. The police informed Terreri that he did not have to submit to the test but that, if he refused to do so, he would lose his driver's license for 1 year. Terreri refused to take the breathalyzer test.

Because of Terreri's refusal to take the breathalyzer test, DOT suspended his driver's license pursuant to 75

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 210]

Pa. C. S. ยง 1547(b)(1). Terreri appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, which reversed the determination of DOT.

Our review in a driver's license suspension is limited to determining whether or not the findings of the trial court are supported by substantial evidence and whether or not the trial court committed an error of law. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Traffic Safety v. Cohen, 99 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 466, 512 A.2d 1365 (1986).

In order to justify the suspension of a driver's license for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test, the arresting officer must have "reasonable grounds" to believe that the individual had been operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. White v. Commonwealth, 59 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 156, 428 A.2d 1044 (1981). Reasonable grounds exist if a reasonable person in the position of the officer, viewing the facts and circumstances as they appeared at ...


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