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Commonwealth v. Reigel

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

September 13, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
LARRY A. REIGEL, Appellant

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence April 19, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County, Criminal Division, at No. CP-54-SA-0000020-2012.

BEFORE: BOWES, SHOGAN, and PLATT [*] , JJ.

OPINION

PLATT, J.

Appellant, Larry A. Reigel, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered on April 19, 2012, following his conviction of various Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code violations. On appeal, Appellant argues, inter alia, that the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act (MPJA)[1] does not authorize a police officer, acting within his primary jurisdiction, to issue a citation for a summary offense committed in another jurisdiction. After careful review, we affirm.

Appellant[] was found guilty of violating various
Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code provisions—driving vehicle at safe speed (75 Pa.C.S.[A. §] 3361), traffic control signals (75 Pa.C.S.[A. §] 3112(a))[a], and careless driving/serious bodily injury (75 Pa.C.S.[A. §] 3714(c)), following an April 19, 2012 summary trial de novo. [Appellant] was also found not guilty of a restraint systems violation. (75 Pa.C.S.[A. §]4581(a)(2)).
[Appellant] was sentenced to pay applicable costs and a $25.00 fine for each of the safe speed and traffic signal violations and a fine of $250.00 for the careless driving/serious bodily injury violation. He thereafter filed an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on May 8, 2012. . . .
[a] [Appellant] was cited for two traffic light violations— one occurring in Saint Clair Borough and one in the City of Pottsville.
[Appellant] had been cited by Saint Clair Chief of Police Michael Carey following his investigation of an October 19, 2011 multi-vehicle collision at the intersection of West Hancock Street and Pennsylvania Route 61 in Saint Clair, Schuylkill County. At trial, the Commonwealth presented testimony from numerous witnesses.
The evidence found reliable by the court established that [Appellant], who was operating a tractor-trailer, had driven through a steady red light at the West Hancock Street/Route 61 intersection while traveling in a northerly direction on Route 61. At the time—about 6:55 p.m.—the roadway was wet and the area was dark. Northbound Route 61 consisted of two lanes, together with a separate left turning lane. Southbound Route 61, likewise, consisted of two lanes, together with a separate left turning lane onto West Hancock Street.
Immediately prior to and at the time of the incident, the traffic signal facing the southbound left turn lane had a green arrow. Amanda Dempsey, traveling south, was in the process of turning left to cross the northbound lanes of Route 61 and enter West Hancock Street, while [Appellant] was traveling in the northbound passing lane of Route 61 facing a steady red light. Brenda Gustas was operating a vehicle in the southbound left turning lane behind the Dempsey vehicle. As he traveled through the red light, [Appellant] struck Dempsey's vehicle, which then struck the Gustas vehicle. Thereafter, [Appellant] continued to travel northbound about 188 feet on the southbound side of Route 61, where he hit a guardrail and took out about 61 feet of its length.
Four of the five citations Carey issued which were heard by the court involved the collision in Saint Clair. The other citation [Citation 63-2] involved [Appellant]'s having driven through a steady red light in the City of Pottsville, Schuylkill County, prior to his entering Saint Clair Borough.
In his investigation, Chief Carey interviewed numerous witnesses, including [Appellant], Dempsey and Gustas. He also obtained statements from northbound travelers Dwayne Tietsworth, Kimberly Evans and Angela Emery, all of whom had driven in the same direction as [Appellant] on Route 61 through the city of Pottsville, prior to and up to the collision in Saint Clair.
Evidence Chief Carey uncovered established that shortly before the collision, [Appellant] had driven through a steady red light at the intersection of Routes 61 and 209 (Mauch Chunk Street) in Pottsville. As a result of this information, Chief Carey contacted both the Pottsville City Police Department and the Schuylkill County District Attorney's Office. He informed those entities of his crash investigation and that he had information of [Appellant]'s having committed a Vehicle Code violation within the City of Pottsville prior to the Saint Clair Borough collision. The Pottsville City Chief of Police and the Schuylkill County District Attorney told Chief Caret to continue his investigation and to file any appropriate charges relative to any Vehicle Code Violations which had occurred within Pottsville. . . .

(Trial Court Opinion, 6/27/12, at 1-3).

A. Whether the trial court erred in overruling [Appellant]'s motion to dismiss Citation 63-2 based on lack of jurisdiction of the issuing police officer?
B. Whether [Appellant] was denied effective assistance of counsel in the following respects, and is entitled to a hearing on the same:
a. Trial Counsel failed to properly investigate the traffic light sequence at the site of the alleged traffic violation, which investigation was expressly requested by [Appellant]?
b. Trial Counsel was distracted by interruptions during the trial including participating in separate court proceedings involving a different criminal defendant and the need to make arrangements for his minor child?
c. Trial Counsel failed to object to the admission of an oral statement made by [appellant] to the investigating officer even through there was no foundation for admission of the statement?

(Appellant's Brief, at 2-3).

Our standard of review from an appeal of a summary conviction heard de novo by the trial court is limited to a determination of whether an error of law has been committed and whether the findings of fact are supported by competent evidence. The adjudication of the trial court ...

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