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Statutory Sexual Assault- Four Years Means 1461 Full Days

The Pennsylvania Superior Court in Commonwealth v. Price, 2018 Pa. Super. 105, ___ A.3d ___ (May 2, 2018), recently vacated the judgment of sentence of the York County Court of Common Pleas. The issue before the panel was whether habeas corpus relief was appropriate for two identical twin defendants charged with statutory sexual assault, 18 Pa.C.S. Section 3122.1(a)(1), where the defendants were not four (4) or more years older than the victim, but precisely 1460 days and 14 hours older. There are 1461 days in a four (4) year period based upon simple arithmetic, which includes an extra day for a leap year. The Trial Court determined that since the Appellants were exactly four years older than the victim, the Appellants were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt where they readily admitted to sexual intercourse. The exact ages, including date and times of birth, of all parties was stipulated to by Counsel for Appellants and the Commonwealth. The Appellants appealed this adjudication and remained free on bail pending appeal.

The Superior Court found that the Appellants' interpretation of what a "day" meant to be persuasive and ruled that the Trial Court incorrectly denied the Appellants' requested habeas corpus relief. Penal statutes are to be strictly construed against the Commonwealth. Further, the rule of lenity requires that where there is a latent ambiguity of a term in a statute, the term must be applied in such a manner as to favor a defendant. Instantly, the term "day" means 24 hours and not some lesser fraction thereof. Accordingly, because the Appellants were not a full 1461 days older, their sentences could not stand and they were vacated and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.