Com. v. Long

Decision Date26 August 2003
Citation831 A.2d 737
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee, v. David Jason LONG, Appellant.
CourtPennsylvania Superior Court

Martha E. Bailor, Uniontown, for appellant.

Nancy D. Vernon, Asst. Dist. Atty., Uniontown, for Com., appellee.

Before: DEL SOLE, P.J., GRACI, and BECK, JJ.

OPINION BY GRACI, J.:

¶ 1 Appellant, David Jason Long ("Long"), appeals from the May 21, 2002, Judgment of Sentence entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of sentence.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2 The trial court summarized the facts and procedural history as follows:

On April 22, 2001, the [Appellant] David Jason Long and his friend, Daniel Bogol, had been drinking beer, playing a guitar and listening to music, from approximately 2:00 p.m. until after midnight. At approximately 12:30 a.m., on April 23, 2001, [Long] and Mr. Bogol went to Hiller for gas and cigarettes. On their way back to [Long]'s apartment in the village of Ralph, [Long] was driving his vehicle eastwardly on State Route 166 on a straight stretch of roadway in an unpopulated area near a business known locally as Croftcheck's Welding Shop. [Long] testified that he left his low beams on, even though there was no opposing traffic. While traveling, Mr. Long was conversing with his passenger, and would take his eyes off the road to look at Mr. Bogol for a couple of seconds at a time.

Mr. Long noticed a black object in the roadway, but he saw it too late to avoid hitting it. Both Mr. Bogol and Mr. Long testified that they thought it was a garbage bag. Upon arriving at his apartment, Mr. Long became aware that the damage to his vehicle was not consistent with just striking a garbage bag. He returned to the scene of the accident with a flashlight and saw a human hand protruding onto the berm from the vegetation at the edge of the road. He next went to a nearby service station where he called 911 and reported that an injured victim of an automobile accident was located on Route 166 near Croftcheck's. When asked for his name and address, he gave a false name and a false address from the state of Ohio.

He subsequently learned that the victim had died, and four days later he left his job on the river and turned himself into authorities. [H]e and Mr. Bogol both agree that they had no discussions [after the accident and before the preliminary hearing in this case].
[Mr. Long] was charged with careless driving, safe speed (assured clear distance), homicide by vehicle and "hit and run."1
At trial the jury acquitted [Long] of all charges except for the hit and run charge. On that charge the defendant was sentenced to a term of incarceration of [fifteen to thirty] months, followed by a consecutive period of probation of [thirty] months with boot camp eligibility....

Opinion, at 1 and 2.

¶ 3 Long raises three issues on appeal:

1. Whether Appellant David Jason Long substantially complied with the requirements of 75 Pa.C.S.A. [§ ] 3742 and is therefore entitled to judgment of acquittal?

...

2. Whether 75 Pa.C.S.A [§§ ] 3742 and 3744 are violative of Appellant's right against self-incrimination guaranteed under both [t]he Federal and State Constitutions?

...

3. Whether the Trial Court erred in using an element of the offense to justify sentencing [Long] in the aggravated range, where the elements of the offense are included in the offense gravity score?

...

Appellant's Brief, at 6.

II. DISCUSSION
A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

¶ 4 Long's claim that he substantially complied with sections 3742 and 3744 of Pennsylvania's "Hit-and-Run" statute, 75 Pa.C.S.A §§ 3741-3755 ("the Act"), is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Our standard of review for sufficiency challenges is well settled. We must:

[V]iew[ ] the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, and drawing all reasonable inferences favorable to the Commonwealth, [we must determine if] there is sufficient evidence to find every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.... The Commonwealth may sustain its burden of proving every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt by means of wholly circumstantial evidence ... Moreover, in applying the above test, the entire trial record must be evaluated and all evidence actually received must be considered ... Finally, the trier of fact, while passing upon the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be afforded the evidence produced, is free to believe all, part or none of the evidence.

Commonwealth v. Hilfiger, 419 Pa.Super. 450, 615 A.2d 452, 456 (1992) (Citations omitted).

¶ 5 The Act imposes certain duties upon drivers involved in accidents involving death or personal injury, including rendering aid to victims and providing identification information. It provides, in pertinent part:

(a) General rule.—The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of section 3744 (relating to duty to give information and render aid). Every stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.

75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3742(a). Section 3744, in turn, relating to a driver's duty to give information and render aid provides:

(a) General rule.—The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall give his name, address and the registration number of the vehicle he is driving, and shall upon request exhibit his driver's license and information relating to financial responsibility to any person injured in the accident or to the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle or other property damaged in the accident and shall give the information and upon request exhibit the license and information relating to financial responsibility to any police officer at the scene of the accident or who is investigating the accident and shall render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including the making of arrangements for the carrying of the injured person to a physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if requested by the injured person.
(b) Report of accident to police.—In the event that none of the persons specified are in condition to receive the information to which they otherwise would be entitled under subsection (a) and no police officer is present, the driver of any vehicle involved in the accident after fulfilling all other requirements of section 3742 (relating to accidents involving death or personal injury) and subsection (a), in so far as possible on his part to be performed, shall forthwith report the accident to the nearest office of a duly authorized police department and submit to the police department the information specified in subsection (a).

75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3744(a) and (b).

¶ 6 This Court, as well as other courts in this Commonwealth, have applied the doctrine of "substantial compliance" when determining whether drivers have fulfilled the requirements of the Act. See Commonwealth v. Latshaw, 382 Pa.Super. 575, 555 A.2d 1350 (1989)

(substantial compliance found when driver left accident scene after other party refused to accept identification information); Commonwealth v. Gosnell, 327 Pa.Super. 465, 476 A.2d 46, 47 (1984) (substantial compliance found when appellant stopped and aided victim and provided name and address, but failed to reveal that it was he who hit the victim, until six or seven hours after the accident); Commonwealth Dept. of Transp. v. Stamoolis, 6 Pa.Cmwlth. 617, 297 A.2d 532 (1972) (substantial compliance found when appellant drove one and one-half miles down the road after the accident occurred to find a suitable place to park, and then returned to the accident scene).

¶ 7 Long argues that he, like the appellant in Gosnell, supra, substantially complied with the Act's requirements. We disagree. In Gosnell, Appellant struck what he believed to be a large pothole. He had proceeded about two or three blocks before returning to investigate. At the scene, Appellant found the victim, severely injured, lying in the road. He pulled the victim closer to the roadside and then ran to a nearby phone and anonymously summoned the police. When the police arrived, the Appellant, giving them his name, address and phone number, told the police that he had seen nothing and was the first to arrive at the scene.... Six or seven hours after the Appellant had returned home he went to the police and told them it was most likely he who hit the victim, although evidence was presented at trial that one or two other vehicles may have run over the victim.

Id. at 47.

¶ 8 In finding substantial compliance by the appellant in Gosnell, this Court observed that when determining whether a driver has complied with the Act, a court must first consider that the purpose of the Act is to prevent drivers from leaving the scene and avoiding their responsibilities. Next, this Court cautioned that courts should avoid reaching an absurd result by applying the law too strictly. Id. Because Gosnell stayed at the scene to aid the victim and provided police with his correct name and address, this Court found that Gosnell was in substantial compliance with the Act, and that the seven hour delay between the time of the accident and Gosnell's report to the police that it was most likely he who hit the victim, was "no incidence of Appellant's trying to evade his responsibilities—only that of trying to realize his responsibilities." Id. at 48.

¶ 9 Like our Court in Gosnell, we agree that Long was in substantial compliance with that...

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  • Commonwealth of Pa. v. Brown
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • March 11, 2011
    ...self-incrimination generally protects an individual from being compelled to incriminate himself in any manner.” Commonwealth v. Long, 831 A.2d 737, 743 (Pa.Super.2003). “In addition to guaranteeing the right to remain silent unless immunity is granted, the Fifth Amendment proscribes only se......
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    ...self-incrimination generally protects an individual from being compelled to incriminate himself in any manner.” Commonwealth v. Long, 831 A.2d 737, 743 (Pa.Super.2003), appeal denied, 576 Pa. 721, 841 A.2d 530 (2003). “[I]n all instances other than the protection given by our Commonwealth's......
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    ...self-incrimination generally protects an individual from being compelled to incriminate himself in any manner." Commonwealth v. Long, 831 A.2d 737, 743 (Pa.Super. 2003), appeal denied, 576 Pa. 721, 841 A.2d 530 (2003). "[I]n all instances other than the protection given by our Commonwealth'......
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