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Commonwealth v. Parsons

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 14, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Respondent
v.
TIMOTHY ALLEN PARSONS, Petitioner

         Petition for Review of the Order June 20, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-63-CR-0000448-2016

          BEFORE: OLSON, MOULTON and STRASSBURGER, [*] JJ.

          OPINION

          OLSON, J.

         Timothy Allen Parsons ("Parsons") purports to appeal pro se from the order, entered on June 20, 2016, which modified the conditions of his bail by requiring him to complete a Court Reporting Network ("CRN") evaluation.[1] We hold that Parsons' challenge is, in part, properly construed as a petition for review pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1762(b)(2), which permits appellate review of bail orders pursuant to Chapter 15 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure. Pursuant to our authority to review bail orders under Rule 1762(b)(2), we hold that 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3816 does not require that every defendant charged with driving under the influence ("DUI") undergo a CRN evaluation as a condition of bail. We therefore hold that the trial court erred by ordering Parsons to undergo a CRN evaluation as a condition of his bail. We also conclude that we lack authority to review Parsons' challenge to the trial court's jurisdiction over his criminal case. Accordingly, we quash the petition for review in part, grant the petition for review in part, vacate the trial court's June 20, 2016 order, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         The factual background and procedural history of this case are as follows. At approximately 2:00 a.m. on January 22, 2016, Officer Dustin DeVault stopped Parsons' vehicle while he was driving on Dry Run Road. Officer DeVault suspected that Parsons was driving under the influence of alcohol and arrested him. Police also found a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. After releasing Parsons, police charged him via criminal complaint with a variety of offenses arising from the traffic stop. Parsons appeared at the courthouse on the date of his preliminary hearing; however, he failed to stay for the hearing. As such, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.[2] See Pa.R.Crim.P. 543(D)(3)(b). On February 24, 2016, Parsons filed a petition to vacate the bench warrant. The petition was granted that same day and Parsons was released on recognizance, a type of bail that imposes no conditions beyond those required by Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 526(A). See Pa.R.Crim.P. 524(C)(1).

         On April 15, 2016, the Commonwealth charged Parsons via criminal information with DUI - general impairment, [3] resisting arrest, [4] possession of a small amount of marijuana, [5] possession of drug paraphernalia, [6] and four summary traffic offenses. On June 16, 2016, Parsons appeared before the trial court for what the trial court described as "plea court". Trial Court Opinion, 8/30/16, at 2. Although the record is unclear as to whether Parsons intended to plead guilty at that hearing, when the trial court learned that Parsons had not undergone a CRN evaluation it did not give him that opportunity. Instead, the trial court modified the conditions of Parsons' bail by requiring him to complete a CRN evaluation. Parsons filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied.[7]

         On July 12, 2016, Parsons filed a purported notice of appeal. On July 21, 2016, the trial court ordered Parsons to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal ("concise statement"). See Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). On August 8, 2016, Parsons filed his concise statement. On August 30, 2016, the trial court issued its Rule 1925(a) opinion. On August 25, 2016, this Court issued a rule to show cause why Parsons' notice of appeal should not be quashed. On September 6, 2016, Parsons filed a response to the rule to show cause. On December 5, 2016, this Court discharged the rule to show cause and deferred the jurisdictional issue to merits review.

         Parsons presents two issues for our review:

1. [Did the trial court have jurisdiction over this criminal case?
2. Did the trial court err in requiring Parsons to undergo a CRN evaluation?]

Parsons' Brief at 3.[8]

         Preliminarily, we must determine whether we have jurisdiction in this case. The Commonwealth argues that we lack jurisdiction because Parsons appealed from an interlocutory order. This argument misapprehends the rules of appellate procedure.

         Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1762(b)(2) provides that "[a]n order relating to bail shall be subject to review pursuant to Chapter 15" of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure. Pa.R.A.P. 1762(b)(2). When a defendant files a notice of appeal from an order relating to bail, instead of a petition for review, this Court "will regard the appeal as a [p]etition for review[.]" Commonwealth v. Jones, 899 A.2d 353, 354 n.1 (Pa. Super. 2006).[9]

         The trial court's June 20, 2016 order relates to bail. The trial court modified the conditions of Parsons' bail by requiring him to complete a CRN evaluation. As such, we hold that we must construe Parsons' notice of appeal as a petition for review under Rule 1762(b)(2) and we have jurisdiction to review his challenge to the merits of the trial court's order. As we construe Parsons' notice of appeal as a petition for review under Rule 1762(b)(2), we lack jurisdiction over Parsons' claim that the trial court lacks jurisdiction over his criminal case. Such a claim is outside the scope of a petition for review filed pursuant to Rule 1762(b)(2), which affirms appellate review of bail-related orders in the absence of a pending appeal. Instead, Parsons' challenge to the trial court's jurisdiction must be raised in a direct appeal from any judgment of sentence that may be imposed in this case or via the procedure set forth in Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1311.[10]

         The Commonwealth also argues that Parsons' petition is untimely. This argument is without merit. The trial court's order was entered on June 20, 2016.[11] Pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1512(a)(1), Parsons had 30 days to petition for review of that order. Parsons filed his notice of appeal, which we treat as a petition for review, on July 12, 2016 - 22 days after entry of the order. Accordingly, Parsons' petition for review was timely and we have jurisdiction over the portion of the petition challenging the trial court's modification of Parsons' bail.

         Having determined that we have jurisdiction over Parsons' petition for review with respect to his challenge to the trial court's bail modification order, we turn to the merits of that issue. As this issue requires us to interpret a statute and a rule of criminal procedure, our standard of review is de novo and our scope of review is plenary. See Grimm v. Universal Med. Servs., Inc., 156 A.3d 1282, 1286 (Pa. Super. 2017) (citation omitted) (interpretation of a statute subject to de novo review); Commonwealth v. Libengood, 152 A.3d 1057, 1059 (Pa. Super. 2016) (citation omitted) (interpretation of rule of criminal procedure subject to de novo review).

         In its Rule 1925(a) opinion, the trial court states that it modified Parsons' bail conditions to require a CRN evaluation pursuant to 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3816. In its brief before this Court, the Commonwealth also argues that a CRN evaluation was required pursuant to section 3816.

         "Interpretation of a statute is guided by the polestar principles set forth in the Statutory Construction Act, 1 Pa.C.S.[A.] § 1501 et seq." Commonwealth v. Vandyke, 157 A.3d 535, 538 (Pa. Super. 2017) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Our paramount interpretative task is to give effect to the intent of our General Assembly in enacting the particular legislation under review." Commonwealth v. Walls, 144 A.3d 926, 932 (Pa. Super. 2016), appeal denied, 2017 WL 721824 (Pa. Feb. 23, 2017) (citation omitted). "[T]he best indication of legislative intent is the plain language of a statute. Furthermore, in construing statutory language, words and phrases shall be construed according to rules of grammar and according to their ...


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