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ROBERT LEE LEWIS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (03/09/88)

decided: March 9, 1988.

ROBERT LEE LEWIS, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, in case of Robert Lee Lewis v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 86-2387.

COUNSEL

Andre L. Dennis, with him, Helen M. Alvare, Stradley, Ronon, Stevens & Young, for appellant.

Harold H. Cramer, Assistant Counsel, with him, John L. Heaton, Chief Counsel, for appellee.

Judges Doyle and Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 327]

Robert Lee Lewis (Appellant) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County (trial court) which affirmed the suspension of his driver's license by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Appellee) pursuant to § 1547(b) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C. S. § 1547(b). We affirm.

On December 23, 1985, Officer Boston of the Warminster Township Police Department responded to a radio accident report. Upon arriving at the scene, Officer Boston observed a vehicle impacted against a tree in a yard. The car's engine was not running and Appellant was seated in the passenger seat. The officer asked Appellant if he had been driving and Appellant responded in the negative, stating the car belonged to his brother. The officer further noted that Appellant was in his stocking feet and that there were two shoes on the driver's side of the car, one under the brake pedal and one under the driver's seat. The drawstring from Appellant's coat was stretched tightly across the driver's seat, with one end caught in the driver's door. The officer noted that Appellant's eyes were bloodshot, his speech slurred, and his manner stuporous. The officer detected a strong smell of alcohol emanating from Appellant and observed a bottle of whiskey behind Appellant's back when Appellant leaned forward.

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 328]

Officer Boston concluded that Appellant had been driving while intoxicated and placed him under arrest. Officer Boston requested backup and Officers Kratzinger and Cappucio arrived upon the scene. Officer Boston then told Appellant that they were going to request Appellant to take a blood test and that if he refused his license would be suspended for at least one year. Appellant made no response. Officers Kratzinger and Cappucio then transported Appellant to Warminster General Hospital for a blood test and possible treatment. Appellant refused to take a blood test. As a result of this refusal, Appellee suspended Appellant's license for one year pursuant to section 1547(b) of the Vehicle Code. Appellant appealed his suspension to the trial court, which affirmed the suspension.

On appeal to this court,*fn1 Appellant raises three issues: 1) whether the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to believe Appellant was driving, operating, or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle; 2) whether Appellant refused to submit to a blood test; and 3) whether the police improperly imposed additional requirements upon Appellant in addition to the blood test.

Reasonable Grounds

Appellant contends that Officer Boston did not have reasonable grounds to believe he was driving, operating or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. Appellant emphasizes that when Officer Boston found him he was seated in the passenger seat and the car's engine was not running. Also, ...


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