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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. PACIFICO FORD (01/20/89)

decided: January 20, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLANT
v.
PACIFICO FORD, INC., APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in the case of Pacifico Ford, Inc. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, No. 4563 November Term, 1985.

COUNSEL

Donald H. Poorman, Assistant Counsel, with him, John L. Heaton, Chief Counsel, for appellant.

Edward Stock, for appellee.

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

Author: Kalish

[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 341]

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, which reversed the suspension of Pacifico Ford's dealer registration plates and authorization to issue temporary registration plates and cards. We reverse, and reinstate the suspension.

On April 28, 1983, DOT sent a warning letter to Pacifico Ford, concerning a violation of section 1103(d) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1103(d). This section obligates the dealer to deliver an application for certificate of title to DOT within ten days of the purchase of a vehicle.

Pacifico Ford was subsequently charged with forty-eight violations of section 1103(d) of the Vehicle Code. On October 8, 1985, a hearing was held by DOT, in which Pacifico Ford was given an opportunity to demonstrate why their dealer registration privileges and authorization to issue temporary registration plates should not be suspended. DOT found that the warning letter constituted a first violation, and imposed forty-eight one month suspensions, the penalty for a second offense pursuant to the schedule outlined in section 53.9(a)(12), 67 Pa. Code § 53.9(a)(12).*fn1 The forty-eight suspensions were to be served concurrently. The same suspension was imposed as a first offense pursuant to the penalty schedule outlined

[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 342]

    in section 43.11(a)(4), 67 Pa. Code § 43.11(a)(4).*fn2 Pacifico Ford appealed to the trial court, where the trial court sustained the appeal and reversed the suspension. The trial court reasoned that the warning letter could not serve as a first offense for purposes of the penalty schedule in DOT's regulations, because no hearing was held regarding the offense which was the subject of the warning letter.

Our limited scope of review is to determine whether the findings of the trial court are supported by substantial evidence, or an error of law has been committed. Department of Transportation v. Johnson, 85 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 638, 482 A.2d 1378 (1984). DOT is empowered to suspend vehicle registration plates under section 1374 of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1374, and reads in pertinent part:

Suspension of vehicle business registration plates.

(a) General rule -- The Department may suspend registration plates for dealers, manufacturers or members of the 'Miscellaneous Motor Vehicle Business' class after providing opportunity for a hearing in any of the following ...


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