from the Order Entered May 20, 2016 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Cumberland County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., SHOGAN and OTT, JJ.
case arose out of an automobile accident involving Appellee,
Steven Van Smith S. Rich, in Cumberland County on May 23,
2015. The accident resulted in the death of a bystander, who
came to the aid of the accident victims and was killed when
struck by a passing tractor-trailer. Appellant, Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania ("Commonwealth"), has appealed from
a pretrial order excluding evidence. For the reasons that
follow, we affirm.
trial court summarized the facts of the case,  as follows:
Around midnight on May 23, 2015, [Appellee] was driving on
State Route 114, a multi-lane divided road. Driving at some
speed, he failed to stop at a red light and struck the rear
of a vehicle driven by Ms. Mary Hudson as she made a left
turn through the intersection. Ms. Hudson's vehicle spun
around and came to rest against the curb on the side of the
road closest to where she had begun her left-hand turn.
[Appellee] continued driving, eventually coming to rest some
distance away from where he had struck Ms. Hudson's
vehicle. Another driver pulled up behind Ms. Hudson's
vehicle and activated her emergency flashers to increase the
visibility of Ms. Hudson's car. Within two to three
minutes after the impact, a third party, . . . Mr. Adam Webb,
crossed the highway on foot, coming from the parking lot of
the Pizza Hut on the opposite side of the highway. Mr. Webb
came over to where Ms. Hudson stood on the side of the road
near her vehicle and spoke with her as she was on the phone
with 911. After briefly speaking to her, Mr. Webb then
stepped back into the roadway, apparently moving towards
where he believed [Appellee's] car had come to rest.
Almost immediately, Mr. Webb was struck by an oncoming
tractor trailer.16 He was pronounced dead at the
scene. Ms. Hudson was mobile at the scene and waved off EMS
care, but sought medical treatment several days later for
stiffness, soreness, bruising, pain, and anxiety.
16 N.T. at 37. The truck driver was not charged in
relation to the incident. N.T. at 40-44.
[Appellee] was subsequently charged with one count each of
the following: 1) DUI-General Impairment, 2) DUI-General
Impairment with Refusal to Submit to Blood Alcohol Test, 3)
DUI-General Impairment with Accident Involving Death or
Personal Injury, 4) Accidents Involving Death or Personal
Injury, 5) Failure to Stop and Give Information and Render
Aid, 6) Failure to Notify Police of an Accident Involving
Damage, 7) Careless Driving, 8) Failure to Stop at a Traffic
Control Signal, 9) Disregarding a Traffic Lane (Single), and
10) Recklessly Endangering Another Person
["REAP"]. Counts 5-9 are summary offense[s],
carrying fines of $25 each. Counts 1-3, the general DUI
charges, carry a maximum [penalty of] six months imprisonment
and therefore were set for non-jury trial. The remaining two
charges were set for jury trial; Count , Accidents
Involving Death or Personal Injury, which was charged as a
misdemeanor in the first degree, and Count 10, [REAP], which
was charged as a misdemeanor in the second degree. [Appellee]
waived his pre-trial conference.
Court Opinion, 8/16/16, at 2-4 (multiple footnotes omitted).
The trial court summarized the procedural history as follows:
Trial was scheduled for May 16, 2016, with counts 1-3 and the
summary offenses to be decided by non-jury trial and counts 4
and 10 to be decided by criminal jury trial. On May 16, 2016,
[Appellee] filed a Motion in Limine to exclude certain
evidence. This [c]ourt held a hearing on the Motion on May 16
and 17, 2016. On May 17, 2016, after a hearing upon
[Appellee's] Motion in Limine and Commonwealth's
Motion to Amend the Information, this [c]ourt issued an order
partially granting and partially denying the Motion in Limine
and denying the Motion to Amend the Information.
Trial Court Opinion, 8/16/16, at 1-2 (multiple footnotes
conclusion of the hearing, the trial court ruled that the
Commonwealth: could present evidence to the jury that
Appellee was driving while intoxicated; could not present
evidence to the jury of Appellee's refusal to submit to a
blood-alcohol test; and could not present evidence of the
death of Mr. Webb. The trial court also denied the
Commonwealth's Motion to Amend the Information to include
a higher grading of the offense of Accidents Involving Death
or Personal Injury. Trial Court Opinion, 8/16/16, at 6;
Order, 5/20/16. The Commonwealth filed a notice of appeal
from the court's interlocutory order. Both the
Commonwealth and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P.
issues asserted in the Commonwealth's Rule 1925(b)
statement are the same issues raised on appeal, as follows:
I. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in granting
[Appellee's] motion to exclude evidence of his refusal to
submit to a blood-alcohol test when such a refusal may be
considered as consciousness of guilt of DUI and, in turn,
evidence of DUI may be considered as consciousness of guilt
for Recklessly Endangering Another Person?
II. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in a [sic]
Accidents Involving Death or Personal Injury and Recklessly
Endangering Another Person case when the court excluded
evidence of the death of Victim Webb, who was attempting to
assist Victim Hudson, the woman that [Appellee] crashed into
while DUI and fled the crash scene from, regardless of the
grading of the Accidents offense and fact that the Criminal
Information does not specific [sic] the name of the Victims?
Commonwealth's Brief at 8.
standards by which we review this case are settled. "A
motion in limine is a procedure for
obtaining a ruling on the admissibility of evidence prior to
or during trial, but before the evidence has been
offered." Commonwealth v. Freidl, 834 A.2d 638,
641 (Pa. Super. 2003) (citation omitted). "In evaluating
the denial or grant of a motion in limine, our
standard of review is the same as that utilized to analyze an
evidentiary challenge." Commonwealth v. Hicks,
151 A.3d 216, 224 (Pa. Super. 2016) (citing Commonwealth
v. Pugh, 101 A.3d 820, 822 (Pa. Super. 2014)).
"The admission of evidence is solely within the
discretion of the trial court, and a trial court's
evidentiary rulings will be reversed on appeal only upon an
abuse of that discretion." Commonwealth v.
Reid, 627 Pa. 151, 99 A.3d 470, 493 (2014). An abuse of
discretion will not be found based on a mere error of
judgment, but rather occurs where the court has reached a
conclusion that overrides or misapplies the law, or where the
judgment exercised is manifestly unreasonable, or the result
of partiality, prejudice, bias or ill-will. Commonwealth
v. Davido, ___ Pa.___, 106 A.3d 611, 645 (2014).
Commonwealth v. Woodard, 129 A.3d 480, 494 (Pa.
2015), cert. denied sub nom. Woodard v.
Pennsylvania, 137 S.Ct. 92 (2016). "The court may
exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is
outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following:
unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury,
undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting
cumulative evidence. Pa.R.E. 403." Hicks, 151
A.3d at 224.
we are compelled to address the trial court's assertion
that this interlocutory appeal is improper. The trial court
averred in its Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) opinion that "the
Commonwealth's case will not be terminated or
substantially handicapped by this [c]ourt's [o]rder dated
May 20, 2016[, ] and therefore the Commonwealth's
interlocutory appeal is improper." Trial Court Opinion,
8/16/16, at 7.
noted supra, the Commonwealth may appeal an
interlocutory order suppressing evidence when it provides a
certification that the order terminates or substantially
handicaps the prosecution. Pa.R.A.P. 311(d). Furthermore:
"[t]he Commonwealth's certification that its
prosecution is substantially handicapped is 'not
contestable.' The certification, 'in and of itself,
precipitates and authorizes the appeal.'"
Commonwealth v. Apollo, 412 Pa. Super. 453, 456, 603
A.2d 1023, 1025 (1992), appeal denied, 531 Pa. 650,
613 A.2d 556 (1992), quoting Commonwealth v. Dugger,
506 Pa. 537, 545, 486 A.2d 382, 386 (1985).
Commonwealth v. Surina, 652 A.2d 400, 402 (Pa.
Super. 1995). Thus, we are not permitted to inquire into the
Commonwealth's good-faith certification, and we reject
the trial court's contention that this appeal is
improper. See Commonwealth v. Belani, 101 A.3d 1156,
1157 n.1 (Pa. Super. 2014) (appellate court is not permitted
to inquire into the Commonwealth's good-faith
certification); see also Commonwealth v.Moser, 999 A.2d 602, 605 n.2 (Pa. Super. 2010)
("Both the trial court and [the a]ppellee have requested
that this Court inquire into the Commonwealth's
good-faith certification; however, we are not permitted to
conduct such an inquiry") (citing Commonwealth v.
White, 91 ...