Commonwealth v. Williams
2008 PA Super 177
Decided: August 5, 2008
The Superior Court held that mandatory sentencing enhancements relating to drug activity in drug free school zones applies when school is not in session.
A narcotics officer conducting surveillance on Hemberger Street in Philadelphia observed Williams standing on the street at approximately 9:45 p.m. The officer observed a black female approach Williams and after a brief conversation, the female handed money to Williams who entered a house. About 15 seconds later Williams emerged from the house and handed some small objects to the female. The officer communicated the information about the exchange to back-up officers who apprehended the female as short time later and discovered a packet of cocaine on her person.
A short time later, another black female approached Williams and handed him money. Williams again entered the house. Again, after about 15 seconds, Williams emerged from the residence and handed small objects to the woman who then left. At about 10:30 p.m., a black male approached Williams and handed him money. Williams once again entered and returned in about 15 seconds and handed objects to the man. The officer observed no one other than Williams enter and exit the house. At this time Williams was stopped and officers found cocaine, marijuana and cash.
Officers obtained a consent search from a resident of the house and recovered drug paraphernalia, powdered cocaine and Williams's photo identification.
After a bench trial Williams was convicted of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. A hearing was held and the trial judge ruled that 18 Pa.C.S. #6317 (Drug free school zones) applied because Williams conducted his illegal drug activity within 1,000 feet of a school. The judge imposed the mandatory minimum sentence of two years.
Williams appealed arguing that 18 Pa.C.S. 6317 required that the Commonwealth prove that school was in session when the crime occurred for the sentence enhancement to be imposed. The court, citing three previous cases affirmed. In Commonwealth v. Campbell, 758 A.2d 1231 (PA Super. 2000), the Superior Court held that the statutory language of #6317 does not limit the term playground to school areas and the sentencing enhancement applied to playgrounds on private property. In Commonwealth v. Hinds, 775 A.2d 859 (PA Super. 2001), the Superior Court rejected an argument that although his residence was within 1000 feet of a school, the offense did not involve a minor so the sentence enhancement should not apply. In Commonwealth v. Drummond, 775 A.2d 849 (PA Super 2001), the defendant argued that since his residence was not open to the public, the sentence enhancement did not apply. The court rejected that argument as well.
The Court held these cases support the conclusion that the time of year is not relevant to a proper interpretation of # 6317. Nothing in the statutory language evinces legislative intent to limit its application to the school year.