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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Stefon Coty Dixon

May 10, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA APPELLEE
v.
STEFON COTY DIXON APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order of December 7, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-02-SA-0002334-2011

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

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

OPINION BY WECHT, J.:

Stefon Dixon ("Appellant") appeals the trial court's December 7, 2011 order dismissing his summary appeal after Appellant failed to appear in court. We affirm.

On September 9, 2011, Appellant appeared before a magisterial district judge in Allegheny County, charged with two stop sign violations.*fn2

Appellant was convicted on both counts, and fined $25 plus court costs on each count.

On September 19, 2011, Appellant filed timely appeals from the summary convictions. In doing so, Appellant completed and filed "Notice of Appeal from Summary Conviction" forms for each docket number. On the bottom of those forms, Appellant was notified that his de novo trial was scheduled for December 7, 2011. The forms also indicated that the hearing would commence at 8:30 a.m. at the "City-County Bldg, 8th Floor, Room 21 414 Grant Street." See Notice of Appeal from Summary Conviction, MJ-05003-TR-0016862-2011; MJ-05003-TR-0017922-2011. Appellant signed both forms on the line adjacent to the date and address information. Id.

On December 7, 2011, Appellant failed to appear for the hearing. After the case was called, the trial court dismissed Appellant's appeal. On December 15, 2011, Appellant filed a notice of appeal. The trial court did not direct Appellant to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). On December 21, 2011, the trial court issued an opinion pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a).

Appellant raises a single issue for our consideration:

1. Whether the Court of Common Pleas erred in dismissing [Appellant's] summary appeal due to [Appellant's] failure to appear when said Court failed to conduct an inquiry/investigation into the reasons for [Appellant's] non-appearance?

Brief for Appellant at 2.

Appellant argues that Commonwealth v. Marizzaldi, 814 A.2d 249 (Pa. Super. 2002), which we discuss in detail infra, mandates that this case be remanded, because the trial court failed to inquire into whether Appellant had sufficient cause for his absence before dismissing the summary appeal. Appellant maintains that his failure to appear was involuntary. To support this contention, as the appellant did in Marizzaldi, Appellant includes in his brief an affidavit setting forth the reasons for his absence. Therein, Appellant explains that, on the morning of his hearing, he had reported to Room 114 of the Allegheny County Courthouse at 8:00 am, which was where Appellant originally had filed his summary appeal. Appellant alleges that he was told by a clerk that his hearing was "up the street." Appellant then proceeded to the Family Law Center, which is across Ross Street from the Allegheny County Courthouse. Appellant was redirected from there to the "other courthouse" and "across the street." Appellant believed that he was being sent back to the criminal courthouse, where he had initially reported. By this time, it was 9:45 a.m. Appellant then assumed that he had missed his hearing and went home. See Affidavit, 5/22/2012.

Our standard of review is limited to whether the trial court committed an error of law and whether the findings of the trial court are supported by competent evidence. Commonwealth v. Askins, 761 A.2d 601, 603 (Pa. Super. 2000). The adjudication of the trial court will not be disturbed on appeal absent a manifest abuse of discretion. Id. "An abuse of discretion may not be found merely because an appellate court might have reached a different conclusion, but requires a result of manifest unreasonableness, or partiality, prejudice, bias, or ill-will, or such lack of support as to be clearly erroneous." Commonwealth v. Diamond, 945 A.2d 252, 258 (Pa. Super. 2008) (citation omitted).

Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 462 governs de novo trials following the appeal of a summary conviction. That rule states, ...


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