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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. DENNIS LATSHAW (03/28/89)

filed: March 28, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
DENNIS LATSHAW, APPELLANT



Appeal from Judgment of Sentence March 17, 1988, in the Court of Common Please of York County, Criminal, No. 176 SCA 1987.

COUNSEL

Samuel K. Gates, York, for appellant.

Mark A. Bellavia, Assistant District Attorney, York, for Com., appellee.

Wieand, Olszewski and Tamilia, JJ.

Author: Olszewski

[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 576]

This is an appeal from a judgment of sentence after appellant was convicted for a violation of § 3743(a) of the Motor Vehicle Code.*fn1 Appellant presents one issue for review: whether the trial court erred in its determination that appellant had violated § 3743 where the Commonwealth's witness refused to take the information offered by appellant. We reverse.

On June 26, 1987, appellant and Mrs. Judith Kessler were involved in an automobile accident. Appellant's vehicle sustained minor damage; the damage, however, to Mrs. Kessler's vehicle was substantial. After the accident, appellant offered to exchange licenses and insurance information. Mrs. Kessler declined the offer and walked into a nearby bakery to call her husband. According to Mrs. Kessler, she wanted to speak with her husband to determine what information she would need, although it is unclear from the record whether this intention was made known to appellant. When Mrs. Kessler returned to the accident scene, appellant was gone. No information had been exchanged.

After speaking to a police officer regarding the accident, Mrs. Kessler left the scene to return home. While driving, Mrs. Kessler noticed appellant's van parked near a high

[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 577]

    school. After taking his license number, Mrs. Kessler called the police. Subsequently, appellant was issued a traffic citation.

At a hearing before a magistrate on July 29, 1987, appellant was found guilty of violating § 3743 of the Motor Vehicle Code. This conviction was subsequently upheld by the Court of Common Pleas of York County on November 25, 1987. Post-trial motions were denied. Appellant then filed the instant appeal.

Appellant raises one issue for our review: whether the trial court erred in its determination that appellant violated § 3743(a) where the Commonwealth's witness refused to take the information offered by appellant. According to appellant, the fact that Mrs. Kessler refused to accept his offer of information prior to consulting with her husband precludes a finding of guilt. In short, appellant argues that by offering the information to the witness, he has substantially complied with § 3743(a).

In its opinion, the trial court counters that § 3743, being a criminal statute, is to be strictly construed. Pointing to the specific language of § 3743, and by incorporation § 3744, the trial court reasoned that an individual involved in an accident with another must, regardless of whether there has been a request, provide his name, address, and vehicle registration number before leaving the scene. In the case at bar, according to the trial court, no facts were introduced at trial which would indicate that ...


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