Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
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In 2015, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) set up a commercial vehicle inspection program authorized by Subsection 4704(a)(2) of the Vehicle Code. The inspection program was scheduled approximately one month in advance and occurred at a Clinton County landfill located in the Village of McElhatten. Appellant Jeffrey Maguire’s truck was stopped at the checkpoint by Pennsylvania State Police. The trooper conducted a “Level Two” inspection, which included a review of Appellant’s documents and a walk-around inspection of the truck, checking its lights, horn, wipers, tires, and wheels. During the course of this conversation, the trooper detected the smell of alcohol on Appellant’s breath. Following the inspection, the trooper had Appellant exit the truck, told him that he smelled of alcohol, and asked whether he had been drinking. Appellant stated that he drank one beer on his trip to the landfill. At that point, the trooper noticed a cooler on the floor of the truck near the gearshift, the contents of which were a yellow plastic bag that was wet from ice, three twelve-ounce cans of beer, and one or two bottles of water. Appellant failed field sobriety testing. Appellant was arrested, transported to the Jersey Shore Hospital for blood testing, and ultimately charged with several counts of driving under the influence (“DUI”), as well as five counts of unlawful activities. In Commonwealth v. Tarbert, 535 A.2d 1035 (Pa. 1987) (plurality), and Commonwealth v. Blouse, 611 A.2d 1177 (Pa. 1992), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted guidelines for assessing the constitutionality of government-conducted systematic vehicle checkpoints to which the entirety of the public are subjected. Before the Court in this case was the issue of whether the Tarbert/Blouse guidelines were applicable to statutorily authorized warrantless inspections of commercial vehicles. The Court determined they were not: such inspections should be scrutinized in accord with the test outlined by the United States Supreme Court in New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. 691 (1987), adopted in Pennsylvania in Commonwealth v. Petroll, 738 A.2d 993 (Pa. 1999). Because a panel of the Superior Court, in a two-to-one majority decision, reached the correct result, the Supreme Court affirmed that court’s judgment, which reversed a trial court’s order granting appellant’s motion to suppress evidence. View "Pennsylvania v. Maguire" on Justia Law

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In 2004, the Pennsylvania General Assembly transferred regulatory authority over Philadelphia taxicabs to the Philadelphia Parking Authority (“Authority”) through Act 94. The Act also created a budget submission process for the Authority to follow, and prescribed a formula that the Authority uses to ascertain assessments imposed upon Philadelphia taxicabs. In 2013, the Commonwealth Court found certain portions of Act 94 to be unconstitutional. The General Assembly then enacted Act 64 to cure the constitutional shortcomings identified by the Commonwealth Court. Partial rights taxicab owners in Philadelphia challenged the new scheme on constitutional grounds. The Commonwealth Court granted relief, finding that Subsection 5707(c) of the Parking Authorities Law, 53 Pa.C.S. 5707(c), violated the substantive due process rights of partial rights taxicab owners. Furthermore, the Commonwealth Court found that the budget submission process prescribed in 53 Pa.C.S. sections 5707(a) and 5710 constituted an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. Upon review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded the Commonwealth Court erred in both respects: (1) subsection 5707(c) did not impair the substantive due process rights of partial rights taxicab owners; (2) subsections 5707(a) and 5710 did not amount to unconstitutional delegations of legislative power. View "Germantown Cab Co., et al. v. P.P.A." on Justia Law

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Appellees were suburban common carriers which, pursuant to certificates of public convenience, were authorized to provide hail or call taxicab services, known in the industry as “call or demand services,” in the Commonwealth. Appellees were also authorized to provide call or demand services in limited portions of the City, while being prohibited from providing call or demand service to the City’s business or tourist districts, Philadelphia International Airport, 30th Street Station, or City casinos. Taxicabs which were authorized to provide call or demand service throughout the City were known as “medallion taxicabs,” while appellees operated what were known as “partial rights taxicabs.” Prior to 2004, PUC was responsible for regulating all taxicab service in the Commonwealth. Medallion taxicabs were regulated pursuant to the Medallion Act, and all other taxicabs, including those operated by appellees, were regulated pursuant to the Public Utility Code and PUC regulations. Appellants, the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), appealed a Commonwealth Court order invalidating a jurisdictional agreement between PPA and PUC and concluding certain PPA regulations were invalid and unenforceable as to partial rights taxicabs operating in the City of Philadelphia (City). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court’s order in part (with regard to amended Count IV of the Amended Petition for Review), and affirm it in part (with regard to Counts V-VIII). The Court found the Commonwealth Court erred in concluding the Jurisdictional Agreement violated appellees’ substantive due process rights. The purpose of the Jurisdictional Agreement was to clarify whether PPA, PUC, or both agencies would regulate a trip which is subject to dual jurisdiction, and the Agreement simply states that where dual jurisdiction exists PUC cedes jurisdiction to PPA. The Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court in all other respects. View "Bucks Co. Svc., et al. v. PPA" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue raised for the Supreme Court's review was whether freight brokerage services were excepted from local business privilege taxation1 under the “public utility” exception found in Section 301.1(f)(2) of the Local Tax Enabling Act (“LTEA”), Act of December 31, 1965, P.L. 1257, as amended, 53 P.S. sec. 6924.301.1(f)(2). The Commonwealth Court concluded that S&H Transport was not excepted. The Supreme Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court’s decision because the Supreme Court concluded that the rates of the common motor carriers with whom S&H did business were not fixed and regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and thus the entire exception was inapplicable. View "S & H Transport v. City of York" on Justia Law