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Commonwealth v. Morales-Rivera

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

June 11, 2013

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
v.
Alexander Morales-Rivera, Appellant

Submitted: April 19, 2013

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge

OPINION

BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge

Alexander Morales-Rivera (Morales-Rivera) takes exception to the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County (common pleas court) that denied Morales-Rivera's petition for a writ of mandamus.

On October 4, 2006, following a jury trial in the common pleas court, Morales-Rivera was convicted of rape of a child, indecent assault, and corruption of minors. On January 2, 2007, Morales-Rivera was sentenced to a term of fifteen to forty years and was directed to pay costs and make restitution. Morales-Rivera's post-trial motion was denied. Our Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed. Morales-Rivera also sought relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S. §§9541-9546. The common pleas court denied relief and the Superior Court affirmed.

Morales-Rivera became aware that he was assessed the costs of transporting him to court for the hearing on his PCRA petition. According to the Itemized Account of Fines, Costs, Fees, and Restitution, Morales-Rivera was assessed $4, 353.91 for transportation costs.[1]

On April 30, 2012, Morales-Rivera petitioned the common pleas court for a writ of mandamus and alleged:

4. Costs incurred by City to transport Petitioner [Morales-Rivera] to and from court does [sic] not fall within meaning of 'Costs of Prosecution' or 'Court Costs' as the term of County Code (Act 143 of 2006) for costs incurred by city for transporting Petitioner [Morales-Rivera] to and from judicial proceedings in this matter. Pursuant to costs to be paid by criminal defendants in sections of the Sentencing Code governing the collection of restitution. . . . (Citations omitted).

Writ of Mandamus, April 30, 2012, Paragraph No. 4 at 2.

Morales-Rivera requested the common pleas court to direct the clerk of courts to cease collections for costs associated with transportation, and to reimburse Morales-Rivera for monies deducted from his prison account in payment of said costs in the amount of $443.10.

By order dated July 24, 2012, the common pleas court denied the petition for a writ of mandamus:

This Court based its decision on the merits. The Defendant [Morales-Rivera] cited Fordyce v. Clerk of Courts, 869 A.2d 1049 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005) for the proposition that transportation costs were not recoverable costs. This was correct at the time, but Act 2006-143 specifically amended 42 Pa.C.S. . . . 9728(g) to include transportation costs. This act was effective November 9, 2006, and since he was sentenced on January 2, 2007 the statute was applicable to him.

Common Pleas Court Opinion, October 16, 2012, at 2.[2]

Initially, Morales-Rivera contends that the clerk of courts erred when he was assessed costs of transportation in connection with an evidentiary hearing related to his PCRA petition. Morales-Rivera argues that the clerk of courts erred when he ...


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