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Commonwealth v. Sales

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

November 6, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
v.
SCOTTY JOE SALES Appellant

         Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence November 18, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Fulton County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-29-SA-0000009-2016

          BEFORE: OLSON, J., MOULTON, J., and FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.

          OPINION

          MOULTON, J.

         Scotty Joe Sales appeals from the November 18, 2016 judgment of sentence entered in the Court of Common Pleas of the 39th Judicial District (Fulton County Branch) following his conviction for driving while commercial operating privilege is suspended, 75 Pa.C.S. § 1606(c)(1)(ii). For the reasons that follow, we reverse.

         On May 16, 2016, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Steven R. Morningstar stopped Sales' tractor trailer on Interstate 70 in Brush Creek Township, Pennsylvania for a speeding violation. At the time, Sales was a Kentucky resident and had a Kentucky commercial driver's license ("CDL"). Upon accessing Sales' Kentucky driving record, Trooper Morningstar learned that Sales' CDL had been suspended as of March 27, 2016. Trooper Morningstar cited Sales for speeding[1] and for driving while commercial operating privilege is suspended.

         On May 26, 2016, a magisterial district judge convicted Sales of speeding and driving while commercial operating privilege is suspended. Sales filed a summary appeal with the trial court, which held a de novo hearing on November 18, 2016. The trial court summarized the evidence presented at the hearing as follows:

Trooper Morningstar testified that [on May 16, 2016] he confronted [Sales] about the status of his license; according to Trooper Morningstar, [Sales'] response was "kind of a head cock, a shoulder shrug." It appeared to Trooper Morningstar that [Sales] was "indifferent" to the fact that his license was suspended.
Under cross-examination, Trooper Morningstar clarified that [Sales] did not state that he was unaware of the license suspension.[2] When asked why his license was suspended, [Sales] responded with "I don't know" or "unknown."
[Sales] took the stand in his own defense. [Sales] denied any knowledge of his license being suspended at the time he was stopped by Trooper Morningstar. He further denied receiving any letter or information from the [Commonwealth] of Kentucky indicating his license was suspended.

Opinion Sur Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a), 3/9/17, at 3-4 (internal citations omitted) ("1925(a) Op."). Further:

The Commonwealth introduced Commonwealth's Exhibit 1, which consisted of the driving record of [Sales] as reported by the [Commonwealth] of Kentucky. According to this record, [Sales' CDL] was "suspended." The driving record also establishes that Kentucky issued a suspension order on March 27, 2016 for a violation of some type. It further appears that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet issued a previous order of suspension on June 27, 2015 for "Failure to Answer Court Summons."

Id. at 3 (internal citations omitted). At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found Sales guilty of driving while commercial operating privilege is suspended and sentenced him to pay fines and costs in the amount of $1, 065.[3]

         On December 14, 2016, Sales timely appealed to this Court. After Sales filed his Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1925(b) statement, the trial court issued a Rule 1925(a) opinion. In its opinion, the trial court stated that it had erroneously convicted Sales and concluded that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the conviction:

In short, there was no evidence presented by the Commonwealth to establish that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet mailed notice of the suspension to [Sales] by first-class mail, as required by Kentucky law. Further, there was no evidence presented upon which this court could find [Sales] to have actual notice of the suspension, i.e., no admission by [Sales] that he was aware of the suspension or proof of receipt of notice of the suspension.
Accordingly, this court is constrained to opine that it erred in finding the Commonwealth's evidence sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [Sales] had ...

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