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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JOHN MCCAHAN PARKER (11/29/89)

filed: November 29, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JOHN MCCAHAN PARKER, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County, Criminal Division, No. C.A. NO. 152 OF 1988, NO. BOOK 8, PAGE 29.

COUNSEL

Wendell V. Courtney, State College, for appellant.

Robert F. Hawk, Asst. Dist. Atty., Butler, for the Com., appellee.

Wieand, Tamilia and Hester, JJ.

Author: Tamilia

[ 389 Pa. Super. Page 571]

This is an appeal from the December 8, 1988 judgment of sentence imposed pursuant to the trial court's determination appellant was guilty of driving a vehicle in excess of 35 miles per hour in an urban district, in violation of 75 Pa.C.S. § 3362(a)(1) Maximum speed limits. The trial court sentenced appellant to pay the costs of prosecution and a $59 fine.

The sole issue on appeal is whether the evidence was sufficient to support appellant's conviction. Appellant contends the evidence was insufficient because the Commonwealth failed to offer evidence the situs of the offense was an urban district so as to invoke 75 Pa.C.S. § 3362(a)(1). This Court's scope of review in cases such as this where the trial court has heard the matter de novo is to determine whether competent evidence supports the findings of fact and to correct any erroneous conclusions of law. Commonwealth v. Cogan, 342 Pa. Super. 386, 389, 492 A.2d 1388, 1389 (1985). Applying this standard, a thorough review of the evidence presented, along with relevant statutory and case law, reveals the evidence was indeed sufficient.

Appellant was convicted under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3362(a)(1), which provides:

(a) General rule. -- Except when a special hazard exists that requires lower speed for compliance with section 3361 (relating to driving vehicle at safe speed), the limits specified in this subsection or established under this subchapter shall be maximum lawful speeds and no person shall drive a vehicle at a speed in excess of the following maximum limits:

(1) 35 miles per hour in any urban district.

[ 389 Pa. Super. Page 572]

Appellant asserts there are three elements to the offense, which the Commonwealth must prove to sustain a conviction, and they are: 1) appellant operated a vehicle; 2) at a speed in excess of 35 miles per hour; and 3) in any urban district. We do not agree.

The portion of the statute referring to any urban district is not an essential element of the offense. As the trial court found, the posting of a sign designating a 35 mile per hour zone is a function of the municipal or state authority empowered by statute to establish such zones. It is a rule of law that the acts of such officials are entitled to a prima facie finding of regularity, Bethlehem Steel Co. v. Board of Finance and Revenue, 431 Pa. 1, 244 A.2d 767 (1968), which in this case requires a finding that the sign was posted in an urban district as defined in 75 Pa.C.S. 102, Definitions. A rebuttable presumption is created that the situs of the offense was in an urban district or another properly zoned section. See Albert v. Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co., 431 Pa. 600, 246 A.2d 840 (1968).*fn1 This presumption results from the fact Pennsylvania law establishes two basic maximum speed limits: 35 miles per hour in any urban district and 55 miles per hour in other locations. 75 Pa.C.S. § 3362(a)(1) and (2). Any other posted speed limit must be based on an engineering and traffic study or fall in special zones such as school and work zones, all of which are covered by section 3362(a)(3). 67 Pa.Code § 211.72 Speed limits in other than ...


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