Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of May 15, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-54-CR-0001329-2012
BEFORE: MUNDY, OLSON AND STABILE, JJ.
Appellant, Steve Brzoska, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered on May 15, 2013. We affirm.
The factual and procedural background of this case is as follows. On June 17, 2012, Corporal Michael Dissinger of the Mahanoy City Police Department was on patrol when Officer Romanick relayed to him information obtained from a confidential informant indicating that Appellant was driving without a valid driver's license. N.T., 5/15/13, at 4, 6. Corporal Dissinger confirmed the information with his dispatcher. Id. at 6. He then observed Appellant drive past his location. Id. at 8. Corporal Dissinger conducted a traffic stop of Appellant's vehicle. Id. Corporal Dissinger noticed the taillight on Appellant's vehicle was not working; however, Appellant was not charged with that offense. Id. at 14-15.
When approached, Appellant gave Corporal Dissinger his brother's name and date of birth. Id. at 9. Appellant consented to a search of his vehicle and then was released. Id. at 10. After the stop was completed, Officer Romanick informed Corporal Dissinger that Appellant often gives his brother's name and date of birth. Id. Corporal Dissinger proceeded to review Department of Motor Vehicles' photos of Appellant and Appellant's brother and realized that Appellant was in fact driving the vehicle. Id. at 10-11. Corporal Dissinger also confirmed that Appellant did not have a valid license at the time of the traffic stop. Id. at 12.
On July 30, 2012, Appellant was charged via complaint with giving false information to a law enforcement officer and driving with a suspended license. A two-count information charging the same offenses was filed on October 29, 2012. A bench trial was conducted on May 15, 2013. Appellant orally moved to suppress the evidence gathered as a result of the traffic stop which the trial court denied. Appellant was found guilty of driving with a suspended license and was immediately sentenced to pay a fine of $200.00 plus costs and fees. This timely appeal followed.
Appellant raises one issue for our review:
Was the stop of the Appellant[, ] without probable cause and reasonable suspicion[, ] a pretext stop? Appellant's Brief at 5 (capitalization removed).
"When reviewing a challenge to a trial court's denial of a suppression motion, our standard of review is limited to determining whether the [trial] court's factual findings are supported by the record and whether the legal conclusions drawn from those facts are correct." Commonwealth v. Delvalle, 74 A.3d 1081, 1084 (Pa.Super. 2013) (citation omitted). "[O]ur scope of review is limited to the factual findings and legal conclusions of the [trial] court." In re L.J., 79 A.3d 1073, 1080 (Pa. 2013) (citation omitted). "[W]e are limited to considering only the evidence of the prevailing party, and so much of the evidence of the non-prevailing party as remains uncontradicted when read in the context of the record as a whole." Id.
"As we have explained, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of [the Pennsylvania] Constitution protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. To safeguard these rights, courts require police to articulate the basis for their interaction with citizens in three increasingly intrusive situations." Commonwealth v. Clemens, 66 A.3d 373, 378 (Pa.Super. 2013) (internal alterations, quotation marks, and citation omitted).
We have described three types of police/citizen interactions, and the necessary justification for each, as follows:
The first of these is a mere encounter (or request for information) which need not be supported by any level of suspicion, but carries no official compulsion to stop or respond. The second, an investigative detention, must be supported by reasonable suspicion; it subjects a suspect to a stop and period of detention, but does not involve such coercive conditions as to constitute the functional ...