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[U] Commonwealth v. Archer

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 5, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
v.
CURTIS B. ARCHER Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence December 11, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-21-SA-0000156-2012

BEFORE: BENDER, P.J., PANELLA, J., and MUSMANNO, J.

MEMORANDUM

PANELLA, J.

Appellant, Curtis B. Archer, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered December 11, 2012, by the Honorable Edward E. Guido, Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County. We affirm.

This case is an appeal from a summary criminal conviction. On July 23, 2012, Hampden Township Police Officer Brandon Stolley effectuated a traffic stop of a vehicle traveling on the right shoulder of Carlisle Pike. The vehicle was driven by Archer; his wife and five week old son were in the back seat. When Officer Stolley requested Archer's license, Archer admitted that his license had been suspended for DUI-related offenses, and that he was driving due to an emergency involving his infant child. When the officer offered to contact EMS, Archer refused and stated that they were on their way back from the doctor's office. Officer Stolley proceeded to cite Archer for Driving While Operating Privilege is Suspended (DUI-related).[1]

On August 15, 2012, following a summary trial, Senior Magisterial District Judge Paula P. Correal sentenced Archer to a term of 60 days' imprisonment, plus costs and a $500.00 fine. Archer filed a summary appeal. Following a de novo trial on December 11, 2012, Judge Guido convicted Archer of driving under suspension and imposed the same sentence set by the District Judge. This timely appeal followed.

On appeal, Archer argues that Commonwealth presented insufficient evidence to refute his justification defense to the driving under suspension charge. Our standard of review is as follows:

The standard we apply in reviewing the sufficiency of evidence is whether, viewing all the evidence admitted at trial 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 that of 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. Helsel, 53 A.3d 906, 917-918 (Pa.Super. 2012) (citations omitted).

In Commonwealth v. Manera, 827 A.2d 482, 484-485 (Pa.Super. 2003), a panel of this Court held that a justification defense of emergency was theoretically applicable to a driving while operator's privilege was under suspension for a DUI-related offense. The panel reiterated the elements of a justification defense as follows:

1.that the actor was faced with a clear and imminent harm, not one which is debatable or speculative;
2.that the actor could reasonably expect that the actor's actions would be effective in ...

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