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[U] Commonwealth v. Ratchliff

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 4, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
TONY RUFUS RATCLIFF, III, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the PCRA Order entered June 4, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Criminal Division, at No(s): CP-25-CR-0001717-2009.

BEFORE: BOWES, ALLEN, and MUSMANNO, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

ALLEN, J.

Tony Rufus Ratcliff, III ("Appellant") appeals pro se from the order denying his first petition for relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa.C.S.A. sections 9541-46. We affirm.

The PCRA court summarized the pertinent facts and procedural history as follows:

At approximately 4:30 P.M. on May 16, 2009, Erie police and medical personnel were dispatched to investigate an unconscious driver that was stopped in the roadway blocking traffic on the Bay Front Highway, a high traffic, congested, undivided four lane parkway located in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania. [Appellant] was the sole occupant of the vehicle. After regaining consciousness and after being cleared by medical personnel, the Erie Police provided [Appellant] ample time to secure a driver for his automobile, during which time [Appellant] made approximately fifteen calls attempting to find a driver. However, [Appellant] was unable to secure a driver and after nearly a half hour on the scene, the Erie Police called a tow truck to move [Appellant's] vehicle as officers determined [Appellant] appeared to be incapable of safe driving. Police additionally discovered that [Appellant's] driver's license was suspended. In anticipation of the vehicle being towed from the scene and in compliance with department directives, police conducted a legal inventory search of [Appellant's] vehicle. [Appellant] was ultimately arrested after police discovered a variety of narcotics, drug paraphernalia, and a loaded .40 caliber Glock pistol.
Prior to trial, [Appellant] sought to suppress [] any and all evidence that was recovered from his vehicle via an Omnibus Pre-trial Motion challenging the propriety of the inventory search. After a hearing on the matter on February 3, 2010, this Court denied [Appellant's] motion in its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law filed February 23, 2010.
On March 22, 2011, [Appellant] appeared before [the trial court] for a trial by jury. [Appellant] was found guilty of possession with intent to deliver, firearms not to be carried without a license, possession of drug paraphernalia, three counts of possession of a controlled substance and the summary offense of driving while operating privileges are suspended.
On July 15, 2011, this Court sentenced [Appellant] to [an aggregate] term of five (5) to ten (10) years' incarceration.
[Appellant] filed a Post Sentence Motion on August 22, 2011 wherein he renewed the suppression issue [and] sought an arrest of judgment for failure of the Commonwealth to meet its burden of proof at trial. [Appellant's] Post Sentence Motion was argued before this Court on September 13, 2011, and the [trial court] denied [Appellant's] motion that same day.

PCRA Court Opinion and Notice, 1/31/13, at 1-2 (footnote omitted).

Appellant filed a timely appeal to this Court. Within his appeal, Appellant raised three issues that challenged the trial court's suppression ruling. In an unpublished memorandum filed on July 25, 2012, we rejected Appellant's claims, and affirmed his judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. Ratcliff, 55 A.3d 148 (Pa.Super. 2012). Appellant did not file a petition for permission to appeal to our Supreme Court.

On October 24, 2012, Appellant filed a pro se PCRA petition, and the PCRA court appointed counsel. On December 5, 2012, PCRA counsel filed a motion to withdraw and a "no-merit" letter pursuant to Commonwealth v. Turner, 544 A.2d 927 (Pa. 1988), and Commonwealth v. Finley, 550 A.2d 213 (Pa.Super. 1988) (en banc). In her "no-merit" letter, PCRA counsel addressed each issue raised by Appellant in his pro se petition, and concluded that Appellant's claims were either previously litigated, waived, or lacked arguable merit. After conducting an independent review of the record, the PCRA court filed, on January 31, 2013, ...


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