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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. STANLEY M. SNYDER (06/05/89)

filed: June 5, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
STANLEY M. SNYDER, APPELLANT. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT, V. STANLEY M. SNYDER, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of December 31, 1987, in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Criminal Division, at No. 1442-84, 2053-85.

COUNSEL

Frederick P. Kramer, West Chester, for appellant (at 369) and appellee (at 370).

Stuart B. Suss, Assistant District Attorney, West Chester, for Com., appellee (at 369) and appellant (at 370).

Rowley, Wieand and Beck, JJ.

Author: Beck

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 62]

The issues in this case involve questions of (1) whether a person with prior driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances convictions under 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 3731 (Purdon Supp.1988) may obtain a preliminary disposition in lieu of criminal proceedings under the drug dependent statute 35 Pa.Stat.Ann. § 780-118(a) (Purdon

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 631977]

);*fn1 (2) whether filing an information eight months after arrest requires dismissal pursuant to either Pa.R.Crim.P. 130(b), (d), 131(b), or 315(a); (3) whether there was adequate evidence of chain of custody to allow the results of a blood test into evidence; and (4) whether a person sentenced to a term of imprisonment under 75 Pa.Stat.Ann. § 3731(e) may be placed on work release as part of that sentence. Appellant, Stanley Snyder has raised the first three issues and the Commonwealth has cross-appealed on the work release issue.

We conclude that the trial court correctly held that under the circumstances presented: (1) no preliminary disposition is available under the drug dependent statute, 35 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 780-118(a); (2) that there should be no dismissal of the second complaint under Pa.R.Crim.P. 130, 131 or 315; (3) the results of the blood test were properly admitted into evidence; and (4) a judge may include work release as part of the sentence of imprisonment under 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 3731(e). We therefore affirm the judgment of sentence.

On June 23, 1984 Stanley Snyder was arrested for driving while intoxicated. He was transported to Southern Chester County Medical Center for a chemical test of his blood. Two samples were taken in front of the arresting officer, transported to the Kennett Square police station and stored there overnight. Dr. Thomas Logan of the Pennsylvania State Police laboratory in Lima testified that he received blood samples with a request for a laboratory analysis on the blood of Stanley Snyder. Dr. Logan conducted the analysis which resulted in a finding of .26% blood alcohol concentration.

On June 24, 1984 the Commonwealth filed a criminal complaint against Snyder charging him with violations of 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 1501 (Purdon 1977 & Supp.1988) (relating to license requirements), § 1543 (Purdon Supp.1988)

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 64]

(relating to driving with a suspended license), § 3714 (Purdon 1977) (relating to reckless driving), and § 3731(a)(1) (Purdon Supp.1988) (relating to driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances). On July 10, 1984 after a preliminary hearing, Snyder was held over for court on all charges. In Criminal Information No. 1442-84, Snyder was charged with the above violations.

Prior to trial on Information No. 1442-84, Snyder petitioned for a preliminary disposition under the drug dependent statute, 35 Pa.Stat.Ann. § 780-118(a), which allows for the appointment of a physician to determine the propriety of a rehabilitative preliminary disposition as an alternative to criminal prosecution in cases of drug dependency. The court denied the petition, but certified the ruling as appropriate for appeal in October, 1984. The Superior Court denied Snyder's petition for permission to appeal on May 30, 1985 and the Supreme Court denied relief on June 4, 1987. The trial judge stayed all proceedings after his October 1984 order certifying the interlocutory appeal.

While the stay was in effect on the first complaint, the Commonwealth filed a second criminal complaint against Snyder on March 25, 1985 charging him with violation of 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 3731(a)(4) (relating to driving with a blood alcohol content greater than .10%). On August 21, 1985, the trial judge lifted the stay order for the purpose of permitting a preliminary hearing on the second complaint. This criminal complaint became Criminal Information No. 2053-85.

The trial judge refused to dismiss the second complaint for delay and consolidated both complaints for trial. Prior to trial the judge ruled, pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 131(b), (c) (relating to failure to include offenses arising out of same incident in a single complaint), that Snyder would not be liable for any additional costs caused by the filing of the second complaint. The trial judge sat without a jury and found Snyder guilty of 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 1501, 3714, and 3731(a)(1) under the first complaint and 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 3731(a)(4) under the second complaint.

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 65]

At sentencing, the trial court found that Snyder had three previous convictions under § 3731 for driving under the influence and imposed the minimum sentence required by the statute, sentencing Snyder to one to two years imprisonment with the first three weeks to be served in total incarceration and the remainder of the time to include work release. See 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 3731(e)(1)(iv). The trial judge ruled that the § 3731(a)(4) charge dealing with Snyder's blood alcohol level merged with the § 3731(a)(1) driving under the influence charge and imposed no further sentence of imprisonment. He imposed fines for the other two violations. On the appeal before us Snyder has not challenged the finding of three prior convictions nor has the Commonwealth challenged the merging of the charges.

Preliminary disposition

The first issue we address is Snyder's assertion that the trial court committed an error of law when it refused to grant his request for a court appointed physician pursuant to the drug dependent statute 35 Pa.Stat.Ann. § 780-118(a). As discussed more fully, infra, if the court had granted Snyder's petition, the court would have appointed a physician to determine whether Snyder should receive rehabilitative treatment in lieu of subjecting him to the criminal prosecution and penalties of the driving under the influence statute, with the final decision on rehabilitation or prosecution resting with the district attorney. We hold that the rehabilitative provisions of the drug dependent statute are not applicable as a preliminary disposition to persons charged with driving under the influence.*fn2 Our conclusion is based on an analysis of the driving under the influence statute.

In determining the application of a statute, our primary objective is to discern the legislative intent behind that statute. 1 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 1921(a) (Purdon 1988). The primary method of determining the meaning of a statute is simply to look at the plain and unambiguous meaning

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 66]

    of the statute as written by the Legislature. Id. at § 1921(b). However, where the meaning is not clear on the face of the statute, the courts are instructed to look at other factors in determining legislative intent. Thus, in construing the legislative intent behind a statute the court may look to (1) the occasion and necessity of the statute, id. at § 1921(c)(1); (2) the circumstances in which it was enacted, id. at § 1921(c)(2); (3) the mischief to be remedied, id. at § 1921(c)(3); and (4) the object to be attained by the law, id. at § 1921(c)(4). See Moon Township v. Police Officers of Moon Township, 508 Pa. 495, 498 A.2d 1305 (1985). In addition, the court may consider the former law on the same subject, 1 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 1921(c)(5) (Purdon 1988); Commonwealth v. Wescott, 362 Pa. Super. 176, 523 A.2d 1140, appeal denied, 516 Pa. 640, 533 A.2d 712 (1987), as well as what the consequences of a particular interpretation would be. 1 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 1921(c)(6) (Purdon 1988); Tyler v. King, 344 Pa. Super. 78, 496 A.2d 16 (1985). Moreover, we must recognize that in construing the statute there is a presumption that the legislature did not intend unreasonable or absurd results. 1 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 1922(1) (Purdon 1988); Commonwealth v. Fisher, 485 Pa. 8, 400 A.2d 1284 (1979).

In interpreting statutes we also consider the rules of construction governing situations where two statutes are at issue. In such cases, a court attempts to construe the statutes in harmony if possible. Appeal of Yerger, 460 Pa. 537, 333 A.2d 902 (1975); Commonwealth v. Smith, 375 Pa. Super. 419, 544 A.2d 991 (1988) (en banc).

However, where a general statute and special statute are in conflict, the special prevails unless the general was enacted later in time and the Legislature intended the general provision to prevail. 1 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 1933 (Purdon 1988). Additionally, where two general statutes are in conflict, the one enacted on the later date prevails. Id. at § 1936 (Purdon 1988); Community College of Beaver ...


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