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Commonwealth v. Valcarel

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 12, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
LLOYD JOSEPH VALCAREL, Appellant

Submitted May 12, 2014.

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Centre County, Criminal Division, No(s): CP-14-CR-0000395-2013. Before LUNSFORD, J.

Richard G. Settgast, Jr., Bellefonte, for appellant.

Daniel C. McKenrick, Assistant District Attorney, Bellefonte, for Commonwealth, appellee.

BEFORE: DONOHUE, WECHT, and STRASSBURGER [*], JJ.

OPINION

STRASSBURGER, J.

Lloyd Joseph Valcarel (Appellant) appeals from his August 23, 2014 judgment of sentence of 9 to 18 months' imprisonment following his conviction for unlawfully possessing a weapon in prison, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 5122(a)(2). Specifically, Appellant challenges the pretrial grant of the Commonwealth's motion in limine which precluded him from offering evidence in support of the defenses of justification or duress. After thorough review, we affirm.

On January 24, 2013, Appellant, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview (SCI Rockview), was involved in a fight with another inmate. A corrections officer (CO) who detained Appellant after the fight observed Appellant drop onto the floor from his clothing a plastic knife, into the end of which a razor blade had been melted. Appellant's dropping the shank, wrapped in tissue paper, was also captured on surveillance video.

Appellant was charged with violating section 5122 of the Crimes Code which provides, in relevant part, as follows: " An inmate commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he unlawfully procures, makes or otherwise provides himself with, or unlawfully has in his possession or under his control, any weapon, tool, implement or other thing which may be used for escape." 18 Pa.C.S. § 5122(a)(2).

Page 398

Prior to trial, Appellant indicated his intention to offer a justification or duress defense to the charges. The Commonwealth filed a motion in limine seeking to preclude any evidence in support of such defenses. After a hearing, the trial court granted the Commonwealth's motion. Appellant proceeded to a bench trial before another judge and was convicted and sentenced as indicated above.

Both Appellant and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925. Appellant presents the following question for this Court's review: " Did the trial court err in holding that [Appellant] was prohibited from using the defenses of justification, generally; duress; self-defense; and defense of others and prohibiting [Appellant] from presenting any evidence of these defenses[?]" Appellant's Brief at 5 (unnecessary capitalization omitted).

[A] motion in limine is a procedure for obtaining a ruling on the admissibility of evidence prior to trial, which is similar to a ruling on a motion to suppress evidence, [therefore] our standard of review ... is the same as that of a motion to suppress. The admission of evidence is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court, and our review is for an abuse of discretion.

Commonwealth v. Rosen, 615 Pa. 305, 42 A.3d 988, 993 (Pa. 2012) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

Appellant notes that the " right to self-preservation does not end at the gates of a prison." Appellant's Brief at 8. Appellant claims that he was entitled to resort to self-help to protect himself in prison, as he was " the target of a prison gang" and his " attempts to get help from the prison officials were ignored or punished[.]" Id. at 13. Accordingly, Appellant argues that he was entitled to offer evidence ...


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