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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Eric Kutzel

April 2, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA APPELLEE
v.
ERIC KUTZEL APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of January 3, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-02-CR-0010944-2010

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

J-A32026-12

BEFORE: MUSMANNO, J., WECHT, J., and COLVILLE, J.*fn1

OPINION BY WECHT, J.:

Eric Kutzel ("Appellant") appeals from his January 3, 2012 judgment of sentence. After careful review, we vacate that judgment. Around 3 p.m., on May 1, 2010, while crossing the street via a pedestrian crosswalk at the intersection of Merrimac Street and Virginia Avenue in the City of Pittsburgh, M.K., a nine-year-old boy, was struck by Appellant's car. Notes of Testimony ("N.T."), 1/3/2012, at 6-8, 12, 14. While driving on Virginia Avenue, Appellant turned*fn2 onto Merrimac Street with a green traffic signal, striking M.K. N.T. at 8-9. M.K.'s tooth was broken and his nose was bleeding. N.T. at 10.

Appellant testified that he was not distracted while driving, that he did not see M.K., and that he could not stop in time. N.T. at 25-26. The parties stipulated that Appellant's driver's license was suspended at the time of the collision. N.T. at 22. They stipulated as well that M.K. suffered injuries as a result of the accident. N.T. at 22.

Appellant was charged with accident involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed ("AIDPI"), 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3742.1(a), and driving while operating privilege is suspended or revoked, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1543(a). A non-jury trial was held on January 3, 2012. Appellant was found guilty on both charges. On January 3, 2012, Appellant was sentenced to eighteen months of probation on the AIDPI conviction, and was fined $200 on the driving while operating privilege is suspended conviction. Appellant does not challenge the latter conviction on appeal.

On February 2, 2012, Appellant filed a notice of appeal. On February 8, 2012, the trial court ordered Appellant to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). Appellant timely complied on February 29, 2012.

Appellant raises the following issues for our review:

I. Is the evidence insufficient to support the guilty verdict for Accident Involving Death or Personal Injury because the Commonwealth has established no more than that a car accident occurred? Is this not a mere accident, not a crime?

II. Is the evidence insufficient to support [Appellant's] conviction of Accident Involving Death or Personal Injury While Not Properly Licensed, 75 Pa.C.S. § 3742.1(a), because the Commonwealth failed to produce evidence of the requisite mens rea, which in this case is criminal negligence?

A. Does the Commonwealth's claim that [Appellant's] driving under a suspended license in and of itself constituted criminal negligence elevate[] the crime to one of absolute liability contrary to Pennsylvania law?

B. As the evidence would not support holding [Appellant] liable even under a standard of ordinary negligence, does it not follow that his conduct would not be held negligent under ...


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