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Commonwealth v. Peralta

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 31, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
RICHIE PERALTA Appellant

         Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence June 17, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-51-SA-0001577-2016

          BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., RANSOM, J., and PLATT, J. [*]

          OPINION

          RANSOM, J.

         Appellant, Richie Peralta, appeals from the judgment of sentence of June 17, 2016, imposed after the court dismissed his de novo appeal for failure to appear. We affirm.

         On March 15, 2016, Appellant was stopped at the intersection of Tioga and Colon Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, due to the tinted windows of his car. Upon running Appellant's license, the police officer discovered that Appellant's license had been suspended. The officer wrote two traffic citations for the above violations.[1] See Traffic Citations AA23374I-4 and AA233742-5. A hearing for these citations was scheduled for May 17, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. Appellant did not appear at the hearing, was found guilty in absentia and was fined $146.50 and $275.00, respectively.[2] That same day, Appellant filed a notice of appeal to the Court of Common Pleas, and a trial de novo was scheduled for June 17, 2016. See Notice of Appeal, 5/17/16.

         On June 17, 2016, Appellant failed to appear for his trial de novo, and his appeal was dismissed. See Order, 6/17/16. Appellant retained counsel and filed an unopposed motion for reconsideration. See Mot. for Recons., 6/22/16, at ¶¶ 1-6. The motion averred that Appellant worked nine hours a day, seven days a week, and that due to his heavy workload, unrelated legal troubles, and conflict within his family, he had inadvertently missed his trial. Id. The Commonwealth did not oppose the motion. Id. The court heard argument from Appellant's counsel but ultimately denied the motion. See Notes of Testimony (N.T.), 6/22/16, at 3-16.

         Appellant timely appealed[3] and filed a court-ordered Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) statement of errors complained of on appeal. The court issued a responsive opinion.

         On appeal, Appellant raises the following issues for our review, which we have reordered for ease of analysis:

1. Whether or not it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to deny relief to the Appellant, when promptly presented with his credible claim of involuntariness, and where the Commonwealth did not oppose the motion for reconsideration and argued before the trial court that it be granted, where the Appellant was pro se at the time of his absence, where the denial was based on the trial court's procedural rigidity?
2. Whether or not it was an error of law for the trial court to deny the Appellant a new trial after his de novo summary appeal was dismissed for failing to appear, where he presented a prima facie claim of involuntariness that was found to be credible.
3. Whether or not it was an error of law for the trial court to find the Appellant was absent without cause, where he failed to appear due to his inability to remember his court date cause [sic] stress from conflict in his home life and overwork?
4. Whether or not it was an error of law for the trial court to dismiss the Appellant's appeal under Pa.R.Crim.P. 1037(D)(2) for failing to appear prior to his de novo summary trial at a status/settlement conference scheduled by the Court of Common Pleas pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 1037(A).

Appellant's Brief at 7.

         The standard of review regarding summary conviction appeals ...


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