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[U] Commonwealth v. Easton

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 8, 2013



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of November 26, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County Criminal Division at No.: CP-36-CR-0000954-2012.




Anthony Easton ("Appellant") appeals his November 26, 2012 judgment of sentence. Appellant's counsel has filed a petition to withdraw as counsel, together with an "Anders/Santiago" brief.[1] We grant counsel's petition to withdraw, and we affirm Appellant's judgment of sentence.

On March 27, 2012, Appellant was charged by criminal information with driving under the influence ("DUI")—general impairment, [2] driving without a license, [3] driving while operator's license suspended—DUI related, [4]limitations on overtaking on the left, [5] driving on roadways laned for traffic, [6]and careless driving.[7] On November 13 and 14, 2012, a jury heard evidence on the DUI charge, while the trial court considered the same evidence as it related to the summary offenses. The evidence produced at the trial is as follows.

On November 26, 2011, at approximately 11:20 p.m., Ryan Turney ("Turney") was travelling on Old Philadelphia Pike in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County, at forty-five miles per hour, five miles per hour over the posted speed limit. As he did so, a van that was travelling at an extremely high speed passed his vehicle. The van proceeded to round a bend ahead, and continued beyond Turney's line of sight. When Turney rounded that same bend, he saw that the van was involved in a traffic accident. Turney stopped his vehicle at the scene of the accident and called 911.

Lisa Taylor ("Taylor") was travelling along the same road with her daughter in her SUV. Taylor was unfamiliar with the general area. Her daughter was operating a GPS device to help them find their destination. The GPS device indicated to Taylor that her next turn was ahead on her left. Taylor slowed her vehicle, activated her turn signal, and started to make the left hand turn from the right hand lane. As she did so, the van driven by Appellant, the same one that passed Turney seconds earlier, attempted to pass her in the oncoming traffic lane, and struck her SUV on the driver's side door. Taylor immediately jerked her car to the left and came to a stop. The van proceeded a bit further before running off the road and colliding with a tree.

Pennsylvania State Trooper Tien Duong responded to the scene of the accident. Trooper Duong immediately noticed that both vehicles had severe front-end damage. Trooper Duong noted that the speed limit on that particular stretch of road was forty miles per hour, and that the area fell within a no-passing zone. After speaking with Appellant, Trooper Duong believed that Appellant had been drinking alcohol. Appellant had glassy, bloodshot eyes. Appellant was swaying while standing up. His speech was slurred, and he smelled like alcohol. Appellant admitted to Trooper Duong that he was the driver of the van, and that he had consumed beer prior to driving. Trooper Duong asked Appellant to perform field sobriety tests.

Appellant declined the tests, citing a leg injury as the reason for declining. Trooper Duong did not observe any obvious injuries to Appellant, but, in an abundance of caution, accepted Appellant's excuse. Trooper Duong then read the standard chemical testing warnings to Appellant. After hearing and appearing to understand the warnings, Appellant refused a breath test.

Edward Clark ("Clark"), Appellant's brother, was the passenger in Appellant's van. Clark was attending a family event in the area. Appellant had just picked Clark up in the van. In that short period of time, Clark did not see Appellant drinking alcohol, nor did Clark believe that Appellant was inebriated. Clark stated that Taylor did not use her turn signal prior to attempting to turn left.

Melissa Townsend ("Townsend"), Appellant's former paramour and mother of two of his children, owned the van that Appellant was driving. Even though she was in the early stages of labor and was about to deliver a baby, Townsend went to the scene of the accident. Townsend claimed that she never saw Trooper Duong talking to Appellant, and that Trooper Jon Smith was the only police officer that interacted with Appellant. Additionally, Townsend did not believe that Appellant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. When Townsend arrived at the scene of the accident, she observed that Appellant walked and talked normally. Townsend noted that Appellant did not have glassy eyes, that his speech was not slurred, and that he did not smell of alcohol. Townsend had seen Appellant that afternoon, but had not seen him again until after the accident. Hence, Townsend could not account for Appellant's location or activities during the intervening time period.

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury, favoring the testimony presented by the Commonwealth over that presented by Appellant, found Appellant guilty of DUI. The trial court found Appellant not guilty of driving without a license, but found him guilty on all of the other charged summary offenses. On November 26, 2012, the trial court, having determined that the instant judgment was Appellant's third DUI conviction, sentenced Appellant to one to five years' incarceration on the DUI count. The trial court also sentenced Appellant to sixty days' incarceration on the driving with a suspended license (DUI related) count, which the court ordered to run concurrently with the DUI sentence. Finally, the trial court sentenced Appellant to pay $25 plus costs on each of the remaining summary counts. No post-sentence motions were filed.

On December 21, 2012, Appellant filed a notice of appeal. On December 31, 2012, the trial court directed Appellant to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). On January 18, 2013, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(c)(4), counsel for Appellant filed a statement of intent to file an Anders/Santiago brief in lieu of a Rule ...

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