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Commonwealth v. Boyles

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 24, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellant
v.
RANDALL BOYLES, III, Appellee

Submitted September 29, 2014

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County. Criminal Division at No(s): CP-10-CR-0001344-2013. Before SHAFFER, J.

Christine W. Studeny, Butler, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Joseph L. Smith, Butler, for appellee.

Michael S. Ferguson, Harrisburg, for State System of Higher Ed., participating party.

BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., BENDER, P.J.E., and LAZARUS, J.

OPINION

Page 592

 GANTMAN, P.J.

Appellant, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, appeals from the order entered in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, granting the suppression motion of Appellee, Randall Boyles, III. We affirm.

The relevant facts and procedural history of this appeal are as follows. Kiester Road is an east-west road in Butler County. A portion of Kiester Road runs through Slippery Rock University, with campus grounds abutting the north and south sides of the road. The university, however, does not own or maintain Kiester Road.

On April 27, 2013, Slippery Rock University Police Officer Frank Davis set up a " speed trap" for vehicles traveling along a segment of Kiester Road that is abutted by campus grounds on both sides. (N.T. Suppression Hearing, 2/20/14, at 6). Specifically, Officer Davis sat in a stationary position next to the university police department, which is located on the campus grounds abutting the south side of Kiester Road. Officer Davis used an " AccuTrack" device to monitor the speed of passing motorists. (Id. at 4). At 12:18 a.m., Appellee's black sedan traveled eastbound on Kiester Road and proceeded through the speed trap. Officer Davis tracked Appellee's vehicle as traveling forty-three (43) miles per hour, in violation of the posted speed limit. Officer Davis followed Appellee's vehicle, activated the emergency lights on his patrol car, and conducted a traffic stop. Appellee pulled over near the Pine Glenn Apartments, on a stretch of Kiester Road that is abutted by the university on the north side only.[1]

During the stop, Officer Davis asked Appellee for his driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance, but Appellee could not produce these items. Officer Davis returned to his patrol vehicle to verify Appellee's name and date of birth. At that point, another officer at the scene, Officer Haslett, motioned for Officer Davis to return to Appellee's vehicle. Officer Haslett stated that Appellee had been reaching for something in the back seat, underneath a book bag. Officer Davis looked into the vehicle and saw bottles of wine and liquor in the back. Officer Davis asked Appellee if he had been drinking, but Appellee stated he had not. While speaking with Appellee, Officer Davis observed the odor of alcohol. After administering field sobriety tests, Officer Davis arrested Appellee for driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance (" DUI" ). While at the university police department, Appellee consented to a breath test. The test revealed Appellee's blood alcohol content was 0.110%.

On August 26, 2013, the Commonwealth filed a criminal information charging Appellee with two (2) counts of DUI and one (1) count of the summary offense of driving in excess of twenty-five miles per hour in a " residence" district. On January 10, 2014, Appellee filed an omnibus pretrial motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop. In it, Appellee relied on Commonwealth v. Durso, 2013 PA Super 223, 86 A.3d 865 (Pa.Super. 2013), for the proposition that campus police at state-owned universities have " limited jurisdiction which only permits their police powers to be exercised on university owned property." [2]

Page 593

(Suppression Motion, filed 1/10/14, at 2). Appellee maintained that Officer Davis conducted the traffic stop off campus; thus, the officer " was acting outside of his jurisdiction and did not have the legal authority to initiate a traffic stop...." (Id.)

The court conducted a suppression hearing on February 20, 2014. On March 21, 2014, the court granted Appellee's suppression motion, concluding:

Counsel for the Commonwealth argued that in Durso, the Superior Court overlooked 24 P.S. § 20-2019-A and 42 [Pa.C.S.A.] § 8953. Counsel also argued that it is ludicrous to believe a Slippery Rock University police officer is powerless to arrest for crimes committed on Kiester Road.
* * *
We have once again examined the statutes applicable to this matter, including but not limited to those which counsel for the Commonwealth argued were overlooked by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Durso. The inescapable conclusion we must reach is that this matter is controlled by Durso.
* * *
Given that the facts here are identical to the salient facts in Durso, that decision is a binding precedent that we are not free to ignore.

(Suppression Court Opinion and Order at 2-3).

The Commonwealth timely filed a notice of appeal on April 16, 2014.[3] On April 21, 2014, the court ordered the Commonwealth to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). The Commonwealth timely filed a Rule 1925(b) statement on May 2, 2014.

The Commonwealth now raises two issues for our review:

Page 594

DID THE TRIAL COURT ERR WHEN IT DISREGARDED THE ENABLING LEGISLATION FOR STATE-OWNED UNIVERSITY CAMPUS POLICE POWERS AND DUTIES AS SET FORTH IN 24 P.S. § 20-2019-A? THIS ENABLING LEGISLATION PERMITS POLICE TO ACT OUTSIDE THE LIMITS OF THE UNIVERSITY PURSUANT TO 42 PA.C.S.A. § 8953(a).
DID THE TRIAL COURT ERR WHEN IT MISINTERPRETED THE FACT THAT THE PUBLIC ROAD ON WHICH THE UNIVERSITY POLICE CONDUCTED A TRAFFIC STOP WAS ABUTTED ON BOTH SIDES BY UNIVERSITY PROPERTY [AND], AS SUCH, WAS ACTUALLY PART OF THE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS?

(Commonwealth's Brief at 6).

On appeal, the Commonwealth asserts the suppression court disregarded the relevant statute setting forth the powers and duties of campus police. Citing Section 20-2019-A(a)(5), the Commonwealth contends campus police at certain state-owned universities have the same powers and duties which are bestowed upon municipal police officers under the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act (" MPJA" ), 42 Pa.C.S.A. § § 8951-8954. Citing Section 8953(a)(2) of the MPJA, the Commonwealth argues Officer Davis properly conducted a traffic stop off campus grounds, because the officer was in " hot pursuit" after witnessing Appellee commit a traffic violation within the officer's primary jurisdiction. Moreover, the Commonwealth insists Kiester Road is part of the campus grounds. The Commonwealth claims Kiester Road " runs through the university, thus putting it on university property even though it is not owned by the university." (Commonwealth's Brief at 13). The Commonwealth concludes the court should have denied Appellee's suppression motion on these bases. We disagree.

" Statutory interpretation implicates a question of law." Commonwealth v. Van Aulen, 2008 PA Super 140');"> 2008 PA Super 140, 952 A.2d 1183, 1184 (Pa.Super. 2008), appeal denied, 600 Pa. 749, 965 A.2d 245 (2009). " Thus, our scope of review is plenary, and our standard of review is de novo." Id.

The principal objective of statutory interpretation and construction is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the legislature. 1 Pa.C.S.A. § 1921(a); Commonwealth v. Menezes, 2005 PA Super 90, 871 A.2d 204, 209 (Pa.Super. 2005), appeal denied, 586 Pa. 724, 890 A.2d 1057 (2005). When possible, every statute should be construed to give effect to all its provisions. 1 Pa.C.S.A. § 1921(a); Commonwealth v. Drummond, 2001 PA Super 122, 775 A.2d 849, 855-56 (Pa.Super. 2001) ( en banc ), appeal denied, 567 Pa. 756, 790 A.2d 1013 (2001). Courts must read and evaluate each section of a statute in the context of, and with reference to, the other sections of the statute, because there is a presumption that the legislature intended the entire statute to be operative and effective. Id. at 856. The plain language of a statute is the best indication of legislative intent. Commonwealth v. Reaser, 2004 PA Super 148, 851 A.2d 144, 149 (Pa.Super. 2004), appeal denied, 581 Pa. 674, 863 A.2d 1145 (2004). " When the words of a statute are clear and free from all ambiguity, the letter of it is not to be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit." Menezes, supra at 209. " Importantly, '[s]tatutes or parts of statutes are in pari materia when they relate to the same persons or things or to the same class of persons or things' and '[s]tatutes in pari materia shall be construed together, if possible, as one statute.'" Durso, supra at 867 (quoting 1 Pa.C.S.A. § 1932(a), (b)).

Section 20-2002-A of the Public School Code of 1949 established the State System of Higher Education (" SSHE" ), a collection of state-owned schools of which Slippery Rock University is a member. Section 20-2019-A governs the conduct of campus police at SSHE institutions:

§ 20-2019-A. Campus police powers and duties

Page 595

(a) Campus police of an institution shall have the power and their duty shall be:
(1) to enforce good order on the grounds and in the buildings of the institution;
(2) to protect the grounds and buildings of the institution;
(3) to exclude all disorderly persons from the grounds and buildings of the institution;
(4) to adopt means necessary for the performance of their duties;
(5) to exercise the same powers as are now or may hereafter be exercised under authority of law or ordinance by the police of the municipalities wherein the institution is located, including, but not limited to, those powers conferred pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 89 Subch. D (relating to municipal police jurisdiction);
(6) to prevent crime, investigate criminal acts, apprehend, arrest and charge criminal offenders and issue summary citations for acts committed on the grounds of the institution and carry the criminal offenders before the proper district justice and prefer charges against them under the laws of this Commonwealth. Except when acting pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 89 Subch. D, campus police shall exercise these powers and perform these duties only on the grounds of the institution. For the purposes of applying the provisions of 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 89 Subch. D, the grounds of the institution shall constitute the primary jurisdiction of the campus police.
(7) to order off the grounds and out of the buildings of the institution all trespassers and persons under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances and, if necessary, remove them by force and, in case of resistance, carry them before a district justice; and
(8) to arrest any person who damages, mutilates or destroys the property of the institution or commits any other offense, including threats or acts of terrorism, on the grounds and in the buildings of the institution and carry that person before the proper district justice and prefer charges against that person under the laws of this Commonwealth.

24 P.S. § 20-2019-A(a)(1)-(8) (internal footnote omitted) (emphasis added). " 'Grounds' shall mean all lands and buildings owned, controlled, leased or managed by the [SSHE]." 24 P.S. § 20-2001-A(21).

Additionally, the MPJA provides in pertinent part:

§ 8953. Statewide municipal police jurisdiction
(a) General rule.--Any duly employed municipal police officer who is within this Commonwealth, but beyond the territorial limits of his primary jurisdiction, shall have the power and authority to enforce the laws of this Commonwealth or otherwise perform the functions of that office as if enforcing those laws or performing those functions within the territorial limits of his primary jurisdiction in the following cases:
* * *
(2) Where the officer is in hot pursuit of any person for any offense which was committed, or which he has probable cause to believe was committed, within his primary jurisdiction and for which offense the officer continues in fresh pursuit of the person after the commission of the offense.

42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8953(a)(2) (emphasis added).

Instantly, the suppression court relied on Durso to grant Appellee's suppression

Page 596

motion. In Durso, however, the parties did not argue the provisions of the Public School Code of 1949. See Durso, supra at 867-68. Therefore, this Court did not have the opportunity to consider the applicability of Section 20-2019-A to circumstances where a campus police officer from a SSHE institution observes a Motor Vehicle Code violation on a public road abutted on both sides by campus grounds. Moreover, the statutes at issue in Durso, 71 P.S. § § 646, 646.1, are part of the Administrative Code of 1929, governing campus police at " state owned" and " state aided or related" colleges and universities generally. In comparison, Section 20-2019-A is part of a series of statutes specifically pertaining to the governance of SSHE institutions, which is a more specific subset of schools than those schools covered under the Administrative Code of 1929. See Commonwealth v. Klingersmith, 437 Pa.Super. 453, 650 A.2d 444 (Pa.Super. 1994), appeal denied, 540 Pa. 647, 659 A.2d 986 (1995) (stating where two statutory sections arguably cover same matter and appear to be inconsistent, specific provision will prevail over general provision). Consequently, we now address the question of whether Section 20-2019-A permitted Officer Davis to conduct the traffic stop of Appellee's vehicle.[4]

At the suppression hearing, Officer Davis testified that Slippery Rock University does not own or maintain Kiester Road. (See N.T. Suppression Hearing at 6, 9.) Further, Officer Davis admitted his jurisdiction is limited to " [a]ny campus property. Any property that is owned by the university...." (Id. at 6). Officer Davis also confirmed that he was not acting under a cooperative agreement with the municipal police at the time he stopped Appellee's vehicle. (Id. at 9).

Here, Kiester Road does not fall within the statutory definition of campus " grounds," and Officer Davis did not have primary jurisdiction over the road. See 24 P.S. § 20-2001-A(21); 24 P.S. § 20-2019-A(a)(6). Because the purported Motor Vehicle Code violation did not occur within Officer Davis' primary jurisdiction, the " hot pursuit" provision of the MPJA is unavailable. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8953(a)(2). Absent more, Officer Davis had no authority to stop Appellee's vehicle for a Motor Vehicle Code violation that occurred outside the officer's primary jurisdiction.[5] Accordingly, we affirm the order granting Appellee's suppression motion, albeit on different grounds. See Commonwealth v. Johnson, 2008 PA Super 14, 941 A.2d 1286 (Pa.Super. 2008) (reiterating appellate court can uphold trial court's decision if there is any proper basis for result reached; appellate court is not constrained to affirm on grounds relied upon by trial court).

Order affirmed.

Judgment Entered.


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