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Commonwealth v. Rodriguez

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

November 22, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
MANUEL RODRIGUEZ, Appellant

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of May 15, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Carbon County Criminal Division at No.: CP-13-SA-0000018-2012

BEFORE: SHOGAN, J., WECHT, J., and COLVILLE, J. [*]

OPINION

WECHT, J.

Manuel Rodriguez ("Appellant") appeals the May 15, 2012 judgment of sentence imposed after he was found guilty of windshield obstructions for driving with improperly tinted windows.[1] We affirm.

The trial court has summarized the factual and procedural history of this case as follows:

[Appellant] serves as a Pennsylvania constable in the Sixteenth (16th) Ward of the City of Allentown, Lehigh County[, Pennsylvania]. As a constable, [Appellant] is classified as an independent contractor working for courts and attorneys throughout the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania constables are not issued vehicles by the municipalities which they serve.
On January 8, 2012, [Appellant] was traveling in an automobile northbound on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike when his vehicle was stopped by a Pennsylvania state trooper, who stated that [Appellant] had been pulled over due to the tint of his windows. [Appellant] was operating his own vehicle, a 2006 BMW sedan, which had black[-]tinted glass in the front and rear driver's side, the front and rear passenger's side, and rear windows, such that it was impossible to see into the vehicle through any of those windows from the outside. [Appellant] was issued a warning and told to remove the tint, and was subsequently cited on January 30, 2012[, ] for violating the aforementioned sunscreening provision of the Pennsylvania [Motor] Vehicle Code.
The BMW automobile which [Appellant] was operating at the time of the citation [was Appellant's] privately owned vehicle, which he purchased himself and which is registered in his own name. There is no certificate of exemption posted on the vehicle. The automobile does not exhibit any distinctive markings or insignia to identify it as an official Pennsylvania government vehicle, and does not feature emergency lights. [Appellant] carries law enforcement insurance for the vehicle, which he purchased himself.
[On March 23, 2012, Appellant was found guilty of the above summary offense after a trial before a magisterial district judge.] On April 9, 2012, [Appellant] filed a "Notice of Appeal from Summary Criminal Conviction" with [the trial court]. Following a de novo hearing held before [Judge Steven Serfass] on May 15, 2012[, ] in accordance with Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 462, [the trial court] found [Appellant] guilty of the only offense charged and sentenced him to pay the costs of prosecution and a fine of twenty-five dollars ($25.00). A written order imposing sentence and containing the information required by [Pa.R.Crim.P. 462(g)] was issued on May 15, 2012. On June 14, 2012, [Appellant] timely filed the instant appeal of that order to the Superior Court.

Trial Court Opinion ("T.C.O."), 8/31/2012, at 1-3 (citations omitted).

On June 15, 2012, the trial court ordered Appellant to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). Appellant filed his statement on July 10, 2012.[2] The trial court issued its Rule 1925(a) opinion on August 31, 2012.

Appellant raises a single issue for our consideration:

Whether the Trial Court committed an error of law and/or an abuse of discretion in not determining [that Appellant] was entitled to an exemption from the automobile tinting provisions pursuant to 75 Pa.C.S. § 4524(e)(2)(i) and 67 Pa. Code § 175.265(a)(1) due to the fact that he was a governmental official operating his vehicle at the time and date in question as a government vehicle on official governmental business?

Brief for Appellant at 4. Appellant contends that his status "as a Pennsylvania constable" and the fact that he was allegedly conducting official business at the time that he was cited for windshield obstructions should qualify his vehicle for an exemption from that summary offense.[3] Brief for Appellant at 6. Specifically, Appellant argues that his vehicle qualifies for an exemption because ...


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