Pennsylvania v. Smith

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted the Commonwealth’s petition for review in this matter to address whether the deadly-weapon-used sentencing enhancement applied to a defendant who was convicted of aggravated assault based on a motor vehicle accident, where the defendant acted recklessly but did not specifically intend to injure the victim. On the evening in question, Appellee drove to several bars and consumed alcohol. Appellee and three others got into Appellee’s car, with Appellee driving. While en route to purchase drugs, Appellee approached an area where pedestrians were intermittently crossing the street in a lighted crosswalk equipped with flashing warning lights. Appellee did not slow down as his vehicle approached, striking a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Appellee fled the scene without getting out of his car to check on the victim. At the time of the incident, Appellee was intoxicated and distracted by his passengers. There was no suggestion Appellee meant to strike the victim or even that he saw him until immediately before the collision. Thus, it was undisputed that his conduct in injuring the victim was criminally reckless but not knowing or intentional. The Commonwealth argued that the DWUE enhancement, by its plain text, applied whenever the use of a vehicle causes serious injury or death regardless of the driver’s specific intent. In reading the DWUE as it applied to a motor vehicle, the Supreme Court ultimately concluded that criminally reckless use of a vehicle for its ordinary purpose of transportation does not trigger an enhanced sentence notwithstanding that such recklessness results in serious bodily injury. The Court reached this conclusion based on the operative language of the DWUE when read in its immediate context. View "Pennsylvania v. Smith" on Justia Law