Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence July 22, 2009 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-36-CR-0001436-2008
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Panella, J.
BEFORE: STEVENS, P.J., FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., MUSMANNO, J., BENDER, J., GANTMAN, J., PANELLA, J., ALLEN, J., LAZARUS, J., and MUNDY, J.
Appellant, Thomas A. Lamonda, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered on July 22, 2009, by the Honorable Howard F. Knisely, Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County. In this appeal, we are asked to determine, inter alia, whether the imposition of an enhanced sentence for a conviction of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, when it was not established that intoxication was a cause of the incident, violates equal protection under the law. Because we conclude that it does not, and that Lamonda's remaining issues merit no relief, we affirm.
On May 6, 2009, a jury found Lamonda guilty of two counts of homicide by vehicle arising from an incident where a tractor-trailer driven by Lamonda entered an oncoming lane of traffic and struck a passenger vehicle, resulting in the death of all the occupants of the passenger vehicle. On the same date, Judge Knisely found Lamonda guilty of driving under the influence of cocaine and the summary offenses of leaving his lane of travel in an unsafe manner, driving at an unsafe speed, and unlawful activities while driving. Thereafter, on July 22, 2009, Judge Knisely imposed an aggregate sentence of forty (40) to One hundred twenty (120) months of imprisonment. After the trial court denied post-sentence motions, Lamonda filed this timely appeal.
On appeal, Lamonda raises four issues for our review, which we restate for clarity:
I. The insufficiency of evidence with regard to
II. Whether the imposition of an enhanced sentence for Homicide by Vehicle DUI-related violated equal protection rights;
III. Whether the trial court abused its discretion by imposing an enhanced sentence for Homicide by Vehicle DUI-related;
IV. Was the aggregate sentence manifestly excessive and unreasonable?
See Appellant's Brief, at 7-8.
In his first issue on appeal, Lamonda contends that the evidence at trial was insufficient to establish that he was guilty of homicide by vehicle. The homicide by vehicle statute provides that a driver who recklessly or with gross negligence causes the death of another person by violating any non- DUI motor-vehicle law is guilty of a felony of the third degree. See 75 PA.CONS.STAT.ANN. § 3732. Lamonda specifically challenges that the Commonwealth failed to present evidence capable of establishing that he violated any motor-vehicle law.
Our standard of review for challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence is well established.
As a general matter, our standard of review of sufficiency claims requires that we evaluate the record "in the light most favorable to the verdict winner giving the prosecution the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence." Commonwealth v. Widmer, 560 Pa. 308, 744 A.2d 745, 751 (2000). "Evidence will be deemed sufficient to support the verdict when it establishes each material element of the crime charged and the commission thereof by the accused, beyond a reasonable doubt." Commonwealth v. Brewer, 876 A.2d 1029, 1032 (Pa.Super.2005). Nevertheless, "the Commonwealth need not establish guilt to a mathematical certainty." Id.; see also Commonwealth v. Aguado, 760 A.2d 1181, 1185 (Pa.Super.2000)
("[T]he facts and circumstances established by the Commonwealth need not be absolutely incompatible with the defendant's innocence."). Any doubt about the defendant's guilt is to be resolved by the fact finder unless the evidence is so weak and inconclusive that, as a matter of law, no probability of fact can be drawn from the combined circumstances. See Commonwealth v. DiStefano, 782 A.2d 574, 582 (Pa.Super.2001).
The Commonwealth may sustain its burden by means of wholly circumstantial evidence. See Brewer, 876 A.2d at 1032. Accordingly, "[t]he fact that the evidence establishing a defendant's participation in a crime is circumstantial does not preclude a conviction where the evidence coupled with the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom overcomes the presumption of innocence." Id. (quoting Commonwealth v. Murphy, 795 A.2d 1025, 1038-39 (Pa.Super.2002)). Significantly, we may not substitute our judgment for that of the fact finder; thus, so long as the evidence adduced, accepted in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, ...