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Commonwealth v. Bloom

July 31, 2009

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA APPELLANT
v.
DEREK BLOOM APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order entered October 15, 2008, In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Criminal No. CP-02-Cr-0003379-2008.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kelly, J.

BEFORE: DONOHUE, CLELAND and KELLY, JJ.

OPINION

¶ 1 The Commonwealth appeals from the order entered in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas granting the motion to suppress of Appellee, Derek Bloom. This case addresses the scope of jurisdiction granted to Port Authority police officers. We reverse and remand.

¶ 2 The suppression court issued a summary of pertinent facts:

On September 1, 2007 at 2:42 a.m. a Port Authority Police Officer was in his vehicle stationed on the side of the HOV ramp of the Wabash Tunnel, about 500 feet from a traffic signal on Woodruff Street. [Appellee] was traveling on Woodruff Street. The Officer testified at the suppression hearing that he remembered seeing vehicles exit the tunnel, and believe[d] that they were in danger of being struck by [Appellee's] vehicle, which he said had proceeded through a red light on Woodruff. The Officer was able to stop [Appellee's] vehicle about 75 feet from the traffic light. Finally, after effectuating the stop, the Officer detected signs of [Appellee's] possible intoxication, administered field sobriety tests and took [Appellee] to a hospital for a blood sample.

Neither the conduct of [Appellee], the possible [Motor Vehicle Code*fn1 violation], nor the stop of [Appellee's] vehicle occurred on Port Authority property.

(Findings of Fact & Conclusion of Law, 10/15/08). Appellee was charged with driving under the influence (DUI)*fn2 and failure to stop at red signal.*fn3 He moved to suppress the evidence obtained in his arrest arguing that the officer lacked jurisdiction to stop him because he: (1) was never on Port Authority property; and (2) did not jeopardize Port Authority personnel, property, or passengers. The suppression court agreed, concluding that the Port Authority officer did not have jurisdiction to stop Appellee for violations of the Motor Vehicle Code. Thereafter, the Commonwealth filed this timely appeal.*fn4

¶ 3 The instant appeal raises one issue for our review: whether the suppression court erred in concluding that the Port Authority officer lacked jurisdiction to stop Appellee's vehicle.The Commonwealth argues that the intersection where Appellee committed the vehicle code violations was in the immediate and adjacent vicinity of Port Authority property. In support of its argument, the Commonwealth submits that the uncontradicted testimony of the officer showed: (1) he was "on patrol" at the Wabash Tunnel which is Port Authority property, (Commonwealth's Brief, at 9); (2) the traffic light on Woodruff Street is activated by vehicles exiting the tunnel; and (3) the officer observed Appellee fail to stop at the stop light and then nearly collide with two vehicles exiting the tunnel. Accordingly, the Commonwealth contends that the officer had jurisdiction to stop Appellee's vehicle. We agree.

¶ 4 Our standard of review is well-settled:

When the Commonwealth appeals from a suppression order, we follow a clearly defined standard of review and consider only the evidence from the defendant's witnesses together with the evidence of the prosecution that, when read in the context of the entire record, remains uncontradicted. The suppression court's findings of fact bind an appellate court if the record supports those findings. The suppression court's conclusions of law, however, are not binding on an appellate court, whose duty is to determine if the suppression court properly applied the law to the facts.

Commonwealth v. Jones, 845 A.2d 821, 824 (Pa. Super. 2004) (citation omitted).

¶ 5 The Railroad and Street Railway Police Act states the powers and duties afforded to Port Authority police officers:

(a) General Powers.--Railroad and street railway policemen shall severally possess and exercise all the powers of a police officer in the City of Philadelphia, in and upon, and in the immediate and adjacent vicinity of, the property of the corporate authority or elsewhere within this Commonwealth while engaged in the discharge of ...


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