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JAMES G. ROSS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (04/19/89)

decided: April 19, 1989.

JAMES G. ROSS, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF DRIVER LICENSING, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James G. Ross, No. 86-01036-09-6.

COUNSEL

J. Michael Ruttle, for appellant.

Christopher J. Clements, Assistant Counsel, with him, Harold H. Cramer, Assistant Chief Counsel, and John L. Heaton, Chief Counsel, for appellee.

Judges Craig and Barry, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 257]

James G. Ross (appellant) appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County denying his appeal from the suspension of his operating privilege by the Department of Transportation (DOT) pursuant to Section 1542 of the Vehicle Code (Code), 75 Pa. C.S. ยง 1542 (habitual offender). We will affirm.

On June 4, 1985, the appellant was riding his all terrain vehicle (ATV) in a wooded area near his home. In order to get home, he drove the ATV on public streets in his neighborhood. This occurred between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and he did not have his lights on. He was seen by a police officer, who stopped him and arrested him for driving without lights*fn1 and for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer.*fn2 He pled guilty to these offenses and paid the fines. Notes of Testimony (N.T.) at 10, Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 13a.

Because the appellant had a prior offense on his record committed within the past five year period,*fn3 DOT notified him that his operating privilege would be

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 258]

    revoked for five years pursuant to the habitual offender statute. He appealed this revocation to the trial court. It held a de novo hearing, took documentary evidence from DOT, and took testimony from the appellant. The issue that the trial court considered was whether the violations for which the appellant was cited were a result of one act or separate acts. Based on previous decisions of this Court, holding that such convictions may result from the same factual episode, the trial court resolved this issue in favor of DOT.*fn4 The appellant now appeals to this Court.

The first issue in this case is a general one of statutory construction. Section 1542 provides in pertinent part as follows:

Three convictions arising from separate acts of any one or more of the following offenses committed either singularly or in combination by any person shall result in such person being designated as a habitual offender. . . .

(Emphasis added.) This statute has been construed many times by this Court, but it continues to create confusion. As the appellant recognizes, a single factual episode can result in multiple convictions, which can ...


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