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Lowicki v. State

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

December 7, 2017

STANLEY C. LOWICKI, Appellant/Defendant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Appellee/Plaintiff.

          Stanley C. Lowicki, Esq., Pro se Appellant.

          Jordan A. Braunsberg, Esq. Deputy Attorney General Department of Justice, Attorney for the State of Delaware.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          SHELDON K. RENNIE, JUDGE.

         Facts & Procedure

         This is an appeal from the Justice of the Peace Court ("JP Court") related to a red light civil violation. On May 18, 2017, a motor vehicle owned by Appellant, Stanley Lowicki ("Mr. Lowicki"), was photographed by a traffic camera driving through a red light on Route 72 at Kenmore Drive. Mr. Lowicki was charged with a civil violation under 21 Del. C. § 4101(d), in accordance with the Electronic Red Light Safety Program. Pursuant to § 4101(d)(7), Mr. Lowicki requested a hearing. On August 11, 2017, a hearing was held in the JP Court. According to the JP Court's Final Disposition, Mr. Lowicki was found responsible and required to pay the following:

Fine Amount: $75.00
Court Costs: $25.00
Court Security Fee: $10.00
Transportation Trust Fund: $37.50
State Police Fund: $7.50
Local Law Enforcement Fund: $7.50
Ambulance Fund: $10.00

         The total amount due was $172.50, which Mr. Lowicki agreed to pay in monthly installments.

         On August 25, 2017, Mr. Lowicki filed his Notice of and Request for an Appeal and Statement Re Grounds And Request for Appeal (collectively "Notice of Appeal") in this Court. In his Notice of Appeal, Mr. Lowicki argues that he has a right to de novo review by this Court. Mr. Lowicki asserts that the $75.00 fine, $25.00 court costs, and $10.00 administrative court security fee satisfies the jurisdictional requirement under § 4101(d)(12) that the "civil penalty" exceed $100.00. In addition, Mr. Lowicki argues that the State did not meet its burden of proof in the JP Court because it did not prove that he was the driver of the vehicle at the time it was photographed disregarding the traffic signal.

         Because of the odd procedural posture of this appeal, the Court requested that the Department of Justice file an Answering Brief.[1] Specifically, the Court requested the State to address whether the Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction over this action as well as the merits of Mr. Lowicki's appeal.[2] On October 17, 2017, the State filed its response. Procedurally, the State argues that this Court does not have jurisdiction to hear this appeal because Mr. Lowicki's appellate right can only be triggered by a "Fine Amount" that exceeds $100.00. It notes that § 4101(d)(3) distinguishes between "civil assessments, " which make up the "Fine Amount, " and "court costs and administrative fees, " which are excluded.[3] The State relies on the legislative history of § 4101 to support its interpretation, [4] as well as Santillo v. State, which excluded court costs and surcharges from the fine amount calculation.[5] Regarding the merits of Mr. Lowicki's appeal, the State argues that the JP Court, as the trier of fact below, found Mr. Lowicki's sworn testimony-that he was not the driver of his ticketed vehicle-not credible. The State asserts that such a finding is a fact-finder's prerogative.

         On November 2, 2017, with the Court's allowance, Mr. Lowicki filed his Reply Brief. Mr. Lowicki's brief mainly focuses on the merits of his appeal. Regarding jurisdiction, Mr. Lowicki analyzes the word choices of § 4101. Representing a profound decent into linguistics, he points out that paragraph (d)(3) uses the phrase "civil or administrative assessment" rather than the word "penalty, " which is defined as the payment for "pain" according to its medieval Latin counterpart. Accordingly, he argues that since § 4101(d)(12) allows "[a]dditional penalty assessments for late payments/response pursuant to paragraph (d)(3)" to be included in the calculation of the "civil penalty, " and paragraph (d)(3) allows "Court costs or similar administrative fees" to also be ...


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