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[U] In re A.O.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 5, 2014

IN RE: A.O. APPEAL OF: A.O.

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order April 25, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Juvenile Division at No(s): CP-51-JV-0001284-2012

BEFORE: GANTMAN, J., OLSON, J., AND WECHT, J.

MEMORANDUM

GANTMAN, J.

Appellant, A.O., appeals from the dispositional order entered in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, following her adjudication of delinquency for hindering apprehension or prosecution, failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order, and disorderly conduct.[1] We vacate the portion of the order finding Appellant committed the offense of hindering apprehension or prosecution and affirm the disposition in all other respects.

The relevant facts and procedural history of this appeal are as follows. On March 20, 2012, at approximately 3:15 p.m., Philadelphia Police Officer Christopher Smith responded to a request for backup at Jones Elementary School. Upon arriving at the scene, the officer observed a crowd of approximately one hundred fifty adults and juveniles fighting in the schoolyard. School police and other officers had already activated the lights and sirens on their patrol vehicles in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Officer Smith surveyed the scene and saw a juvenile, M.R., fighting with several other individuals. Officer Smith approached the group and told them to disperse. M.R., however, refused to move and grabbed Officer Smith's vest. Officer Smith tussled with M.R. until other officers intervened.

At that point, Officer Todd Coyle arrived and saw Officers Smith and Silvetti attempting to arrest M.R. Officer Coyle also noticed several individuals interfering with the arrest, grabbing M.R. and trying to rip him away from the police. Officer Coyle dispersed these individuals, except for Appellant, who refused to leave. Officer Coyle positioned himself between Appellant and the officers dealing with M.R. Appellant tried to walk around Officer Coyle, but he prevented her from passing. Appellant began yelling at the officers, imploring them to release M.R. Officer Coyle again requested that Appellant leave the scene, but she refused. Officer Coyle touched Appellant on the shoulder and told her to back up. Appellant grabbed Officer Coyle's finger and pulled it. Officer Coyle decided to handcuff Appellant, but she backed away and flailed her arms. Officer Coyle again attempted to handcuff Appellant, but she fled.

Instead of pursuing Appellant, Officer Coyle saw that another crowd had gathered around the officers who were arresting M.R. Consequently, Officer Coyle went back to dispersing the crowd. Eventually, the officers subdued M.R. While the officers escorted M.R. into a patrol vehicle, Appellant reappeared. Appellant shouted at Officer Coyle, spit on the ground, and ran into the crowd. Nevertheless, Officers Coyle and Silvetti apprehended Appellant. Appellant struggled with the officers, but they handcuffed her and placed her in the back of a patrol vehicle. Less than a minute later, a member of the crowd walked up to the patrol vehicle and opened a rear door, allowing Appellant to escape. During her flight, Appellant slipped off the handcuffs and ran through the schoolyard. Following a brief foot chase, Officer Coyle grabbed Appellant and took her into custody. Appellant struggled and fought with the officer. Appellant also refused to provide the police with her name or any other information.

On March 21, 2012, the Commonwealth filed a petition to adjudicate Appellant delinquent. The court conducted a hearing on April 25, 2012 and adjudicated Appellant delinquent for the offenses of hindering apprehension, failure to disperse, and disorderly conduct.[2] Also on April 25, 2012, the court entered a dispositional order placing Appellant on probation for an indefinite period.

Appellant timely filed a notice of appeal on May 24, 2012. On August 1, 2012, the court ordered Appellant to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). Appellant timely filed a Rule 1925(b) statement on August 21, 2012.

Appellant raises two issues for our review:

WHETHER THE…COURT ERRED IN FINDING [APPELLANT] GUILTY BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT OF FELONIOUS HINDERING APPREHENSION OR PROSECUTION, 18 PA.C.S. [§] 5105, GIVEN THE LACK OF EVIDENCE AND/OR WITNESS TESTIMONY REGARDING ANY ACTIONS UNDERTAKEN BY [APPELLANT] TO INTENTIONALLY INTERFERE WITH THE APPREHENSION OR PROSECUTION OF ANOTHER.
WHETHER THE…COURT ERRED IN ITS ADJUDICATION OF DELINQUENCY BASED ON A FINDING THAT [APPELLANT] COMMITTED A FELONY AND WHERE THE ONLY OTHER CHARGES OF WHICH [APPELLANT WAS ADJUDICATED DELINQUENT] CONSTITUTED A MISDEMEANOR OF FAILURE OF DISORDERLY PERSONS TO DISPERSE UPON OFFICIAL ORDER (M2) AND THE SUMMARY OFFENSE OF DISORDERLY CONDUCT (S).

(Appellant's Brief at 2-3).

When examining a challenge to the sufficiency of evidence, our standard of review is as follows:

The standard we apply in reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence is whether viewing all the evidence admitted…in the light most favorable to the verdict winner, there is sufficient evidence to enable the fact-finder to find every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In applying [the above] test, we may not weigh the evidence and substitute our judgment for the fact-finder. In addition, we note that the facts and circumstances established by the Commonwealth need not preclude every possibility of innocence. Any doubts regarding a defendant's guilt may be resolved by the fact-finder unless the evidence is so weak and inconclusive that as a matter of law no probability of fact may be drawn from the combined circumstances. The Commonwealth may sustain its burden of proving every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt by means of wholly circumstantial evidence. Moreover, in applying the above test, the entire record must be evaluated and all evidence actually received must be considered. Finally, the [trier] of fact while passing upon the credibility of witnesses and the weight of the evidence produced, is free to believe all, part or none of the evidence.

Commonwealth v. Hansley, 24 A.3d 410, 416 (Pa.Super. 2011), appeal denied, 613 Pa. 642, 32 A.3d 1275 (2011) (quoting Commonwealth v. Jones, 874 A.2d 108, 120-21 (Pa.Super. 2005)).

On appeal, Appellant contends her conduct did not satisfy the statutory elements for the offense of hindering apprehension. Appellant emphasizes the juvenile court's concession that the Commonwealth's evidence did not support her adjudication of delinquency for hindering apprehension; rather, the Commonwealth should have sought adjudication for the offense of obstructing administration of law or other governmental function. (Appellant's Brief at 6) (citing Trial Court Opinion, filed April 4, 2014, at 10-11). Appellant argues her remaining offenses did not warrant an adjudication of delinquency, because they did not amount to felonies.[3] Appellant further argues that an adjudication of delinquency was unwarranted where she had no prior contacts with the juvenile court system, demonstrated remorse, regularly attended school, and has extensive family involvement. Appellant concludes this Court must vacate the juvenile court's disposition in its entirety or, in the alternative, vacate the adjudication as to hindering apprehension. We agree that we must vacate the adjudication as to hindering apprehension, but we affirm the dispositional order in all other respects.

The Pennsylvania Crimes Code defines hindering apprehension as follows:

§ 5105. Hindering apprehension or prosecution
(a) Offense defined.-A person commits an offense if, with intent to hinder the apprehension, prosecution, conviction or punishment of another for crime or violation of the terms of probation, parole, intermediate punishment or Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, [she]:
(1) harbors or conceals the other;
(2) provides or aids in providing a weapon, transportation, disguise or other means of avoiding apprehension or effecting escape;
(3) conceals or destroys evidence of the crime, or tampers with a witness, informant, document or other source of information, regardless of its admissibility in evidence;
(4) warns the other of impending discovery or apprehension, except that this paragraph does not apply to a warning given in connection with an effort to bring another into compliance with law; or
(5) provides false information to a law enforcement officer. 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5105(a).

Additionally, the Juvenile Act governs a finding of delinquency as follows:

§ 6341. Adjudication
(a) General rule. UAfter hearing the evidence on the petition the court shall make and file its findings as to whether the child is a dependent child. If the petition alleges that the child is delinquent, within seven days of hearing the evidence on the petition, the court shall make and file its findings whether the acts ascribed to the child were committed by [her].
(b) Finding of delinquency.-If the court finds on proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the child committed the acts by reason of which [she] is alleged to be delinquent it shall enter such finding on the record and shall specify the particular offenses, including the grading and counts thereof which the child is found to have committed. The court shall then proceed immediately or at a postponed hearing, which shall occur not later than 20 days after such finding if the child is in detention or not more than 60 days after such finding if the child is not in detention, to hear evidence as to whether the child is in need of treatment, supervision or rehabilitation and to make and file its findings thereon. This time limitation may only be extended pursuant to the agreement of the child and the attorney for the Commonwealth. The court's failure to comply with the time limitations stated in this section shall not be grounds for discharging the child or dismissing the proceeding. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, evidence of the commission of acts which constitute a felony shall be sufficient to sustain a finding that the child is in need of treatment, supervision or rehabilitation. If the court finds that the child is not in need of treatment, supervision or rehabilitation it shall dismiss the proceeding and discharge the child from any detention or other restriction theretofore ordered.

42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6341(a), (b). Significantly, the Juvenile Act defines "delinquent act" as follows:

§ 6302. Definitions

The following words and phrases when used in this chapter shall have, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, the meanings given to them in this section:
"Delinquent act."

(1) The term means an act designated a crime under the law of this Commonwealth, or of another state if the act occurred in that state, or under Federal law, or under local ordinances or an act which constitutes indirect criminal contempt under 23 Pa.C.S. Ch. 61 (relating to protection from abuse).
(2) The term shall not include:
(iv) Summary offenses, unless the child fails to comply with a lawful sentence imposed thereunder, in which event notice of such fact shall be certified to the court.

42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6302.

Instantly, the court received evidence on the Commonwealth's delinquency petition at an April 25, 2012 hearing. Officer Coyle testified that he responded to a disturbance at an elementary school. When Officer Coyle arrived at the scene, he assisted in Officer Smith's arrest of M.R. Specifically, Officer Coyle attempted to disperse a crowd that had gathered around M.R. and the arresting officers. Officer Coyle's testimony established that Appellant ignored repeated requests to disperse. Appellant also grabbed Officer Coyle's finger, flailed her arms at the officer, and evaded his attempts to handcuff her. After Officer Coyle apprehended Appellant and placed her in a patrol vehicle, Appellant escaped, fled through the schoolyard, and struggled with the officers as they took her back into custody. While Appellant distracted Officer Coyle from assisting with the arrest of M.R., her conduct did not actually satisfy the statutory elements of hindering apprehension. See 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5105(a). Therefore, insufficient evidence supported Appellant's adjudication for the offense of hindering apprehension. See Hansley, supra.

Nevertheless, Appellant does not dispute that the Commonwealth presented sufficient evidence to establish her commission of failure to disperse, a second degree misdemeanor. See 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5502 (requiring groups of three or more persons to disperse upon order from police officer, where persons are participating in course of disorderly conduct that causes or may reasonably be expected to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm). Contrary to Appellant's argument, the juvenile court did not need to find that Appellant had committed a felony to support the adjudication of delinquency. The evidence demonstrating Appellant's failure to disperse, by itself, constituted a delinquent act and supported the adjudication.[4] See 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 6302, 6341(b). Accordingly, we vacate that portion of the order finding Appellant had committed the offense of hindering apprehension, but we affirm the disposition in all other respects.

Order affirmed in part and vacated in part. Jurisdiction is relinquished. Judgment Entered.

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