Appellant, Anthony Martorano, appeals from a judgment of sentence entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County sustaining the traffic court's imposition of a fine following appellant's conviction for speeding. For reasons delineated below, we vacate the judgment of sentence and discharge appellant.
During the early morning hours of June 19, 1986, Officer Patrick Taylor of the Philadelphia Police Department parked his patrol car, which was equipped with a speed timing device known as "Vascar," on the the Betsy Ross Bridge exit ramp onto Interstate 95. While so situated, Officer Taylor observed appellant traveling at a high rate of speed on the Bridge Street exit; moreover, a Vascar reading indicated that appellant had been traveling at an average speed of 71.81 miles per hour in a 25-miles-per-hour
On April 17, 1987, appellant was convicted as charged in traffic court. Appellant appealed the conviction to the court of common pleas, which convened a de novo hearing on May 1, 1987. At the hearing, the Commonwealth submitted a copy of the original certificate of accuracy of the Vascar unit operated by Officer Taylor. Counsel for appellant objected on the grounds that photocopies are inadmissible pursuant to this Court's ruling in Commonwealth v. Cummings, 338 Pa.Super. 149, 487 A.2d 897 (1985).
Transcript at 26.
The trial court, over defense counsel's objection, admitted the evidence obtained through operation of the Vascar unit and appellant was convicted of violating § 3362(a)(3). Postverdict motions were filed and denied on July 16, 1987. In it's opinion issued pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a), however, the de novo court acknowledged that "[Appellant's] contentions. . . relating to the production of the Original Certificate of Accuracy and to the approvals of the Vascar Unit and testing station by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation are supported under the law. Absent [the] requisite foundational facts regarding the calibration and approval of Vascar Unit NO. 2054 and the approval of the EM2 testing station, the speed of Mr. Martorano's automobile, as it was clocked by the Vascar Unit, cannot properly be sustained as competent evidence." Opinion at 5. Nonetheless, Judge O'Keefe found that there was sufficient evidence independent of the Vascar reading to support appellant's conviction. Citing Officer Taylor's experience, including the fact that he had issued approximately fifteen to twenty thousand speeding citations during his more than sixteen-year tenure with the police force, the court maintained "that the opinion testimony of Officer Taylor is, itself, sufficient to uphold the speeding conviction of Mr. Martorano." Opinion at 9. This appeal followed.
Appellant raises two issues for our review:
Appellant's brief at 2.
We are faced with deciding the issue, previously not addressed in appellate courts of this Commonwealth, of whether a police officer's opinion testimony is sufficient grounds upon which to base a speeding violation pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 3362. In so doing, we are guided by 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3368, in which our legislature established comprehensive guidelines governing the implementation and maintenance of speed timing devices.
As amended 1985, July 11, P.L. 204, No. 52, § 3, imd. effective; 1986, March 27, P.L. 71, No. 24, § 2, imd. effective.
As amended 1986, March 27, P.L. 71, No. 24, § 2, imd. effective.
Added 1985, July 11, P.L. 204, No. 52, § 3, imd. effective.
"In order to properly ascertain the meaning of a statute, we are required to consider the intent of the Legislature."
Applying these tenets to 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3368, we conclude that because the Legislature enacted detailed and specific instructions regarding use and maintenance of speed timing devices in this Commonwealth, it would be impermissible for us to sanction circumvention of those provisions. Therefore, we hold that in order to sustain a speeding conviction under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3362, the Commonwealth must present evidence which would satisfy the requirements of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3368. As a consequence, we also hold that a police officer's uncorroborated testimony as to speed is insufficient to support a conviction for violating Section 3362.
In support of its position that a police officer's estimation of speed, absent an exact measurement from a speed timing device, is legally sufficient to establish a speeding violation, the Commonwealth cites Commonwealth v. Monosky, 360 Pa.Super. 481, 520 A.2d 1192 (1987). We, however, find
Section 3361 does not require that a specific speed limit must be exceeded in order for a violation to occur. Conversely, it is necessary to prove, as an element of a 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3362 violation, that the offender exceeded a posted speed limit. This requirement, by definition, entails greater specificity with respect to the driver's actual speed than would a case involving 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3361. Accordingly, we find Monosky inapplicable to the instant situation.
Finding no precedent in this Commonwealth, our sister jurisdictions provide guidance in resolving this issue. While not controlling, we find City of Kansas City v. Oxley, 579 S.W.2d 113 (Mo. 1979), to be factually analogous and to provide instructive and compelling rationale. In Oxley, the appellant was convicted of exceeding the posted speed limit. The Supreme Court of Missouri, sitting en banc, observed that, "The only evidence . . . from which the court, as the trier of facts, could have found the defendant, Oxley, guilty
Similarly, the Missouri Court of Appeals, in City of Jackson v. Langford, 648 S.W.2d 927 (Mo.Ct.App. 1983), cited a substantial body of case law in support of the proposition that radar had long been accepted as a means of speed detection in that jurisdiction. The appellant in Langford had been convicted of speeding. After finding that the prosecution had failed to establish the accuracy and proper operation of the radar unit that had provided evidence in support of the conviction, the court held that the opinion testimony of two officers that the appellant had been speeding "[did] not constitute sufficient substantial evidence to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. at 930, citing Oxley, supra.
We vacate the judgment of sentence and discharge appellant. Jurisdiction relinquished.
ROWLEY, J., files dissenting statement.
JOHNSON, J., files dissenting opinion in which POPOVICH, J., joins.
ROWLEY, Judge, dissenting.
I respectfully dissent. The majority, in arresting judgment and discharging appellant on the ground of insufficient evidence, has done so by excluding from consideration the improperly admitted evidence of the Vascar reading — in other words, by diminishing the record. As I understand the applicable case law, "we may not grant a motion in arrest of judgment on a diminished record. . . ." Commonwealth v. Maybee, 429 Pa. 222, 226, 239 A.2d 332, 335 (1968). Accord Commonwealth v. Baker, 466 Pa. 479, 483, 353 A.2d 454, 456 (1976). Instead, in reviewing a motion in arrest of judgment, "the sufficiency of the evidence must be evaluated upon the entire trial record. . . . [A]ll evidence actually received must be considered, whether the trial rulings thereon were right or wrong." Commonwealth v. Tabb, 417 Pa. 13, 16, 207 A.2d 884, 886 (1965),
JOHNSON, Judge, dissenting:
The majority has not set forth the limited scope of review which must control our determination of this appeal. Ignoring uncontested facts which were found by the trial court, the majority concludes that legislative authorization of speed timing devices was "fully intended to require the use" of such devices where a motor vehicle operator is charged with driving 65 miles per hour in a 25 mile-per-hour zone. Since this disregards the plain language of the statute and improperly strips the finder of fact of its long-established perogative to weigh the evidence before it, I must dissent.
Our scope of review in motor vehicle violation cases, where the trial court has heard the case de novo, is to determine whether or not the findings of fact are supported by competent evidence and to correct conclusions of law erroneously made. Commonwealth v. Gussey, 319 Pa.Super. 398, 402, 466 A.2d 219, 221 (1983); Cf. Rich v. Commonwealth, 74 Pa.Comwlth. 76, 78, 458 A.2d 1069, 1071 (1983).
Our well-established standard in testing Martorano's claim is whether the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom, viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth as verdict-winner, are sufficient to establish the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Commonwealth v. Thomas, 522 Pa. 256, 561 A.2d 699 (1989). In reviewing the record of the de novo hearing, we must recognize that Martorano makes no objection, on this appeal, to the admission of the police officer's testimony.
Patrick Taylor had been a Philadelphia Police Officer since February 2, 1971. He had issued between 15,000 and 20,000 traffic citations. Of that number, at least 3,000 or possibly 4,000 were for speeding violations. In March 1986, Taylor was assigned to the Expressway Unit of the Philadelphia Highway Patrol. He was trained with the Vascar Unit and had been working primarily on Interstate 95 (I-95) with the principal duty of apprehending speed violators. He regularly had occasion to observe the flow of traffic with the intent to detect vehicles proceeding faster than the flow of traffic.
On June 19, 1986 at 4:45 a.m., Officer Taylor was parked on the Betsy Ross Bridge exit ramp onto I-95. He had a clear view of both the Bridge Street exit and I-95. The traffic was very light. Officer Taylor observed a vehicle coming at a high rate of speed on the Bridge Street exit off of I-95. At that location, before you enter the Bridge Street exit ramp, there is a yellow sign indicating: Speed 25 miles per hour. Officer Taylor was in an overhead position where he could see the Martorano vehicle approaching. Officer Taylor testified that the Martorano vehicle had been traveling at a higher rate than 60, 65 miles an hour and had not slowed down much, if at all, as it proceeded down the exit ramp. When asked for his opinion as to the speed of the Martorano vehicle, Officer Taylor testified that, at the time he observed the vehicle, he knew it was going in
The section of the Vehicle Code under which Martorano was convicted provides as follows:
75 Pa.C.S. § 3362. A conviction would require proof that Martorano drove a vehicle at a speed in excess of 25 miles per hour. Officer Taylor testified that Martorano was driving 65 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. Is this testimony sufficient to support the conviction? I conclude that it is.
Until the pronouncement of the majority in this case, a police officer has been competent to render an opinion as to the speed of an observed motor vehicle, subject only to the existence of an adequate opportunity to observe. Commonwealth v. Monosky, 360 Pa.Super. 481, 485, 520 A.2d 1192, 1194 (1987); Commonwealth v. Reynolds, 256 Pa.Super. 259, 271, 389 A.2d 1113, 1119 (1978); Commonwealth v. Forrey, 172 Pa.Super. 65, 70, 92 A.2d 233, 235 (1952). That opinion, once rendered, is for the factfinder, in this case the trial court, to weigh. Commonwealth v. Monosky, supra; Commonwealth v. Forrey, supra; accord, Commonwealth v. Reynolds, supra (jury question).
I find the attempt, by the majority, to distinguish Monosky totally unpersuasive. In Monosky, as in the case now before us, the defendant was driving in a posted 25 mile per
The majority opines that "greater specificity with respect to a driver's actual speed" is required under § 3362 (exceeding maximum speed) than under § 3361 (driving vehicle at safe speed), since the latter does not require that a specific speed limit must be exceeded. Such an abstract, facial analysis is unwarranted, given this court's scope of review. In order to unearth this "difficulty," the majority must absolutely ignore that the present appeal involves uncontested testimony that Martorano was racing 65 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. As the Commonwealth correctly points out, Martorano neither contends that a police officer is incompetent to render an opinion with regard to vehicular speed nor that the trial court improperly admitted the testimony. In "distinguishing" Monosky, the majority seemingly approves opinion testimony where the actual speed exceeded a posted limit by 25 miles while rejecting the same type and quality of testimony where the actual speed is 40 miles per hour over the limit!
Assuming that this appeal is properly before us, I have no difficulty in concluding that the findings of the distinguished trial judge are supported by uncontested competent evidence and that there have been no erroneous conclusions of law presented for our review. The uncontradicted testimony of Officer Taylor is abundantly sufficient to prove that Martorano had driven his vehicle in excess of the maximum 25 mile per hour limit.
Since the evidence is sufficient to sustain the conviction under the express language of § 3362, I find no need to examine other sections of the Vehicle Code under the guise of exploring the intention of the legislature. 1 Pa.C.S. § 1921(b). The Commonwealth argues, quite cogently, that the legislature established limitations on speed timing devices not to require their use but to prevent their abuse. Like the Commonwealth, I find nothing in the Vehicle Code even remotely suggesting that the legislature intended to abolish opinion testimony of experienced police officers and require that speeding convictions depend solely on mechanical, electrical, or electronic speed timing devices.
I would affirm the judgment of sentence on the very able opinion of the distinguished trial judge, the Honorable Joseph D. O'Keefe. Hence, this dissent.
POPOVICH, J., joins.