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Commonwealth v. Durso

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

August 2, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
MATHEW DURSO, Appellant

Argued July 9, 2013.

Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Northumberland County, Civil Division, No(s): CV-10-353. Before JAMES, J.

Franklin E. Kepner, Jr., Berwick, for appellant.

Douglas N. Engelman, Williamsport, for Boris and Jones, appellees.

Lauren M. Burnette, Harrisburg, for Stuck, appellee.

BEFORE: BOWES, DONOHUE, and MUNDY, JJ.

OPINION

Page 866

BOWES, J.

Matthew Durso appeals from the judgment of sentence of intermediate punishment imposed bye the trial court after he was convicted of two counts of driving under the influence (DUI) and the summary offense of operating his motor vehicle without proper headlights. After careful review, we are constrained to reverse.

The facts in this matter are as follows. On August 28, 2011, Slippery Rock University Police Officer Frank Davis and his partner Sergeant Wayne Cochran conducted a traffic stop on Kiester Road in Slippery Rock Borough, after observing Appellant driving with an extinguished headlight. Kiester Road runs through the Slippery Rock University campus and both sides abutting the road are University property. The officers observed Appellant's non-functional headlight while on University property. Specifically, the officers were sitting stationary on Stores Road, Slippery Rock Borough. However, the officers did not perform the stop on University property; rather, the stop occurred outside of campus grounds but within 500 yards of its boundary. As a result of the stop, the police arrested Appellant and charged him with two violations of the DUI statute, specifically, sections 3802(a)(1) and 3802(b). In addition, police cited Appellant for the headlight violation. Appellant filed a suppression motion contending that the officers lacked jurisdiction to stop his vehicle under 71 P.S. § 646, which governs the authority of campus police for state-owned universities. Slippery Rock University is a state-owned university.

The court conducted a hearing wherein the Commonwealth asserted that 71 P.S. § 646.1 permitted campus police for a state-aided or state- related university to effectuate traffic stops within 500 yards of the school property. The Commonwealth reasoned that a state-owned college or university falls within the meaning of a state-aided or state-related college or university. The court agreed with the Commonwealth's interpretation of the applicable statutes and declined to find the stop illegal.

The parties proceeded to a stipulated non-jury trial and the court found Appellant guilty of the aforementioned offenses. [1] The court originally sentenced Appellant on August 30, 2012, to thirty days to six months incarceration for his violation of § 3802(b), and imposed a $25 fine for the summary head-light violation. Appellant filed a motion to modify his sentence, which the court granted in part on September 13, 2012. [2] This timely appeal ensued.

Page 867

The sole question Appellant presents is " Did the lower court err in holding that the stop of Defendant was legal and proper pursuant to 71 P.S. § 646.1, and, therefore, denying the Defendant's timely motion to suppress all evidence obtained." Appellant's brief at 5.

Appellant's challenge involves a question of statutory interpretation and is a pure question of law, i.e., whether 71 P.S. § 646.1 permits campus police of a state-owned university to conduct a vehicular stop within 500 yards of university property. Accordingly, " our standard of review is de novo and our scope of review is plenary." Commonwealth v. Sarapa , 2011 PA Super 18, 13 A.3d 961, 962 -963 (Pa.Super. 2011). Further, " Our task in construing a statute is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the General Assembly." Id. at 964. We interpret statutes so as " to give effect to all its provisions." Id. " [W]e may not render language superfluous or assume language to be mere surplusage." Commonwealth v. Bailey , 2009 PA Super 230, 986 A.2d 860, 863 (Pa.Super. 2009). Where the text of the statute is " clear and free from all ambiguity, the letter of it is not to be disregarded ...


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