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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RONALD EDWARDS (03/07/89)

submitted: March 7, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
RONALD EDWARDS, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Criminal Division at No. 988, 988(A) C.D. 1987, 988(B) C.D. 1987.

COUNSEL

Allen C. Welch, Clearfield, for appellant.

Matthew R. Gover, Assistant District Attorney, Harrisburg, for the Com., appellee.

McEwen, Olszewski and Popovich, JJ.

Author: Popovich

[ 384 Pa. Super. Page 456]

In this case of first impression, Ronald Edwards appeals from the judgment of sentence entered on July 20, 1988, by the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, following his conviction under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3742, for failing to stop his vehicle after being involved in an accident resulting in serious bodily injury. Pursuant to one of the sentencing provisions of the statute, § 3742(b)(3), the court sentenced the appellant to a period of incarceration of ninety (90) days (the mandatory minimum) to one year and ordered him to pay a fine of one hundred ($100) dollars. However, we find that § 3742(b)(3) is inapplicable presently, and we remand for resentencing in accordance with this opinion.

This case was called to trial on October 5, 1987. Prior to trial on the charge sub judice, the appellant pleaded guilty to the charges of false report to law enforcement agency, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 4906, and driving while operating privilege is suspended or revoked, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1543(a). On April 24, 1987, a five-car accident occurred on Interstate 83 in Dauphin County. At the time of the accident, traffic was heavy, and the road surface was wet from rain. Shortly after 1:30 p.m., the appellant was passing another vehicle when he lost control of the Pontiac Fiero he was driving. His car fishtailed on the wet road surface, hit the center guard-rail, spun across both lanes of the interstate and came to rest in the right hand lane perpendicular to the road, thus, causing the chain-reaction accident.

At trial, John Reinhart testified that he was on his way to work when a silver Fiero passed him in the left lane. After the Fiero completed the pass, he observed the car spin and hit the guard-rail. To avoid colliding with the Fiero, Mr. Reinhart was forced off the highway onto the right hand berm. After witnessing the multi-car collision that followed, Mr. Reinhart watched the appellant leave the accident scene. He took down the Fiero's license plate number, and he then reported the incident to the police, describing both the Fiero and the appellant.

[ 384 Pa. Super. Page 457]

Carol Cardosi was operating the car behind the appellant. She testified that she saw the Pontiac Fiero spin out of control and, in an attempt to avoid being hit, slowed down. However, her car was hit from behind and pushed along the highway. She also testified that, after her car came to rest, she saw the Fiero leave the scene. While Ms. Cardosi could not remember if her car made contact with the appellant's, Janice Roadcap, a State Police chemist, testified that traces of silver paint found on the door of the Cardosi car were "microscopically similar" to the top layer of paint on the Fiero driven by the appellant.

Professor Heinz Hosch, his wife and two daughters, Heidi and Pamela, were in the vehicle following Carol Cardosi. When Professor Hosch saw the appellant lose control, he applied his brakes. He testified that he "didn't anticipate any problems until we were struck by a truck from behind." (N.T., Vol. I, 79) A Volvo delivery truck struck the rear of the Hosch vehicle, pushing it into the Cardosi vehicle. The collision with the truck caused severe injuries to the Hosch daughters who were riding in the back seat of the car. Heidi Hosch suffered permanent damage to her left eye, and Pamela Hosch suffered permanent brain damage.

The investigating officer, Trooper Hare, testified that George Kujat was the operator of the delivery truck. At the scene, Mr. Kujat told Trooper Hare that, after seeing brake lights ahead of him, he attempted to stop but was unable to do so prior to colliding with the rear of the Hosch vehicle. He also told the officer that his truck was hit in the rear by another vehicle. The trooper testified that Mr. Kujat was cited for driving at an unsafe speed. Mr. Kujat later pleaded guilty to the charge.

Linda Felo, the owner of the Fiero which the appellant was operating, testified that the appellant admitted to her that he had been involved in an accident on that date.

Based on the foregoing, the appellant was found guilty by a jury of the charge of accidents involving death or personal injury, 75 Pa.S.C.A. § 3742(a). The appellant filed timely ...


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