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Shewack v. Commonwealth

April 14, 2010

DANIEL M. SHEWACK
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF DRIVER LICENSING, APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Simpson

Submitted: March 5, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge.

OPINION

In this statutory appeal, the Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing (PennDOT) asks whether the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County (trial court) erred in sustaining Daniel M. Shewack's (Licensee) appeal of the one-year disqualification of his commercial driver's license (CDL). PennDOT imposed the disqualification pursuant to Section 1611(h) of the Uniform Commercial Driver's License Act, 75 Pa. C.S. §1611(h) (conviction in federal court or another state of an offense similar to offenses that would result in disqualification in the Commonwealth). PennDOT argues the trial court erred in determining Licensee's out-of-state offense was not similar to the Pennsylvania offense, and Licensee's appeal represented an impermissible collateral attack on his underlying out-of-state conviction. Upon review, we affirm.

In 1999, Licensee received a citation in New York for operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) without a registration tag affixed to the trailer.

Licensee did not appear at the hearing on the citation; as a result, the State of New York suspended Licensee's commercial operating privileges for failure to attend the hearing.

In 2008, Licensee was operating a CMV in Maryland when he was stopped and issued several citations. Ultimately, Licensee pled guilty to driving a motor vehicle while his license was suspended in another state for failure to appear or pay a fine. See Md. Code Ann., Transp. §16-303(i). The State of Maryland notified PennDOT of Licensee's conviction.

Shortly thereafter, PennDOT issued Licensee notice of a one-year disqualification of his CDL. Licensee filed a statutory appeal with the trial court.

At hearing, PennDOT produced a packet of certified documents including proof of Licensee's Maryland conviction. PennDOT also requested the trial court take judicial notice of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) Code Dictionary.*fn1 Specifically, PennDOT noted Licensee's violation was a violation corresponding to B26 of the AAMVA Code Dictionary, which pertained to driving with a suspended license.

For his part, Licensee testified he received a citation in New York in 1999. He explained he gave the citation to his employer at the time, and the employer indicated it "would take care of the ticket." Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 30a. Licensee indicated he heard nothing further regarding the New York citation until he was stopped in Maryland in 2008, and, as a result, he was unaware his New York operating privileges were suspended for failure to appear on that citation. Licensee acknowledged he pled guilty to the Maryland charge of driving with a suspended license based on his failure to appear and pay a fine in New York.

Licensee also submitted documentary evidence, including a copy of the New York citation, and a "Defendant Trial Summary" from the District Court of Maryland for Washington County, which set forth the disposition of the citations Licensee received in Maryland. This document indicates Licensee was convicted of driving a motor vehicle while his licensee was suspended in another state for failure to appear or pay a fine. R.R. at 62a. Significant for our analysis, the document also indicates the remaining charges, including a charge of operating a CMV after having been disqualified or suspended in New York, were nolle prossed. R.R. at 62a-63a.

Before the trial court, PennDOT argued the offense to which Licensee pled guilty in Maryland was similar to the Pennsylvania statute, resulting in a one-year disqualification. PennDOT further argued Licensee could not collaterally attack his Maryland conviction. PennDOT asserted this Court's decision in Hyer v. Department Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, 957 A.2d 807 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008), was controlling and required the trial court to deny Licensee's appeal.

Licensee asserted that, contrary to PennDOT's contentions, the statute he was convicted of violating in Maryland was not similar to the offense described in the Pennsylvania statute.

Ultimately, the trial court issued an order sustaining Licensee's appeal. The trial court stated PennDOT did not prove the Maryland offense was similar to an offense that would have resulted in disqualification of Licensee's CDL had the offense occurred in Pennsylvania. See Aten v. Dep't of Transp., Bureau of Driver Licensing, 649 A.2d 732 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1994). PennDOT appealed. The trial court issued an order requiring PennDOT to file a Statement of Matters Complained of on Appeal, which it did.

The trial court subsequently issued an opinion in support of its order in which it stated PennDOT bore the burden of proving the offense Licensee was convicted of was similar to a Pennsylvania offense. The trial court noted PennDOT's failure to produce a copy of the Maryland statute hindered the trial court's ability to make such a determination. The trial court indicated the documents Licensee produced at the hearing revealed the Maryland and Pennsylvania statutes were not ...


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