Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Burgess v. Commonwealth

March 25, 2010

EZRA J. BURGESS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF DRIVER LICENSING, APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: President Judge Leadbetter

Argued: December 9, 2009

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge.

OPINION

The Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing (PennDOT), appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County (trial court), which sustained the statutory appeal of Ezra J. Burgess from a fifteen-day add-on suspension of his motor vehicle operating privilege imposed under Section 1544(a) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1544(a).*fn1 On appeal, the issue is whether Burgess' operating privilege was suspended when PennDOT assigned three points to his record for his convictions of the underlying violations of the Vehicle Code, thereby requiring PennDOT to impose a fifteen-day add-on suspension. After review, we conclude that PennDOT met its burden of proof to establish that the add-on suspension was properly imposed, and we reverse.

On April 19, 2007, Burgess received a citation for speeding and driving an unregistered vehicle. Burgess did not respond to the citation. On June 14, 2007, PennDOT mailed Burgess a notice stating that his operating privilege would be suspended indefinitely effective July 5, 2007, unless he responded to the citation before that date. On August 16, 2007, Burgess paid the fine for his citation; thus, he was considered convicted of the charges in the citation on that date.

On August 24, 2007, PennDOT notified Burgess that his operating privilege was suspended for fifteen days, effective on August 24, 2007, because he was convicted of an offense while his operating privilege was suspended. Burgess appealed to the trial court, which held a de novo hearing.

Prior to the trial court's decision, on November 2, 2007, Burgess paid a fee to restore his suspended operating privilege pursuant to Section 1960 of the Vehicle Code, as amended, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1960, which provides: "[PennDOT] shall charge a fee of $25 . . . to restore a person's operating privilege or the registration of a vehicle following a suspension or revocation." In 2008, the trial court rescinded Burgess' fifteen-day suspension, concluding that under Department of Transportation v. Cable, 580 A.2d 1194 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1990), Burgess' initial suspension ended on August 16, 2007, when he paid the fine for his conviction and that PennDOT, therefore, could not add-on a fifteen-day suspension because his license was not suspended when he was convicted.

PennDOT appealed to this court, arguing that the trial court erred in determining Burgess' suspension for failure to respond to the citation ended when he paid the fine for the citation. PennDOT contends that when Burgess was convicted on August 16, 2007, it properly imposed the additional fifteen-day suspension because his conviction required imposition of three points on his driving record. Under Section 1544(a), when an individual's operating privilege is suspended and he commits an infraction accumulating a point on a driving record, PennDOT is required to impose a five-day suspension for each point. PennDOT asserts that for Burgess to have his operating privilege reinstated, he had to comply with Section 1960, which he did well after PennDOT imposed the add-on suspension.

Burgess argues that under Section 1533(d) of the Vehicle Code, as amended, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1533(d),*fn2 and Cable, his suspension for failing to respond to the speeding citation ended when he paid the fine on August 16, 2007. Burgess contends that PennDOT may not further suspend his operating privilege under Section 1544 because he did not accumulate any points on his driving record until he was convicted of speeding on August 16, 2007.

In Cable, Stephen Cable was issued a citation for failing to stop his vehicle at a red light. He did not to respond to the citation and PennDOT suspended his motor vehicle operating privilege. Cable then paid the fine for the citation and was convicted of the minor offense.*fn3 PennDOT assigned three points to Cable's driving record and notified him that his operating privilege would be suspended for fifteen additional days under Section 1544(a) because he was convicted of an offense while his operating privilege was suspended.

This court in Cable relied on the prior versions of Section 1533*fn4 and Section 1543*fn5 of the Vehicle Code, and determined that a suspension period was for a definite time. Therefore, the court determined that Cable's suspension expired when he paid the fine for his citation. Ultimately, the court concluded that Cable was not under suspension when points were assigned to his record; thus, PennDOT could not impose a fifteen-day additional suspension under Section 1544(a). Cable, 580 A.2d at 1195-96.

PennDOT, however, argues that the Cable decision does not govern the instant case. The General Assembly amended Section 1533 and Section 1543*fn6 to their current versions after the Cable decision. The current version of Section 1533(d) expanded the language of the prior version of Section 1533 to require an individual to restore one's license under Section 1960.

Burgess, however, argues that the current version of Section 1533(d) performs two functions: (1) it provides that a suspension expires when the applicable fine and/or penalty for a citation is paid; and (2) PennDOT may reimpose the suspension, for example, if the restoration fee pursuant to Section 1960 is not paid.

In Rossi v. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, 580 Pa. 238, 860 A.2d 64 (2004), our Supreme Court reviewed the 1994 amendment to Section 1543, 75 Pa. C.S. ยง 1543, a similar add-on ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.