Friday, November 17, 2006
Venue on Receiving Stolen Property Charge Lies Where Property Was Stolen—Court of Appeal
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A charge of receiving stolen property may be filed in the county where the property was stolen, even if there is no proof the defendants actually possessed it there, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Div. Three reinstated charges that brothers Humberto and Michael Alvarado received 20 TiVo recording units that had been stolen from a business in Irvine during a break-in. The panel reversed a ruling by since-retired Orange Superior Court Judge Susanne S. Shaw that the case should have been filed in Los Angeles County, where the brothers allegedly obtained the recorders.
Police obtained a warrant to search the Alvarado residence in Los Angeles after the brothers advertised TiVo units for sale on eBay. The recorders were not recovered, but officers found two ounces of cocaine and about $1,600 in cash, and obtained a statement from the defendants that they had bought the recorders on the street for less than half the retail value and had sold them online.
Motion to Dismiss
The brothers were charged in Orange Superior Court with possession of cocaine and receiving stolen property. At a preliminary hearing, the judge dismissed the drug count for lack of venue—a ruling that prosecutors later conceded was correct—but denied a motion to dismiss the stolen property charge.
Shaw, however, subsequently granted the defendants’ renewed motion to dismiss.
That was error, Justice William Bedsworth wrote yesterday for the Court of Appeal. Prosecutors were entitled to bring the case in Orange County “because that is where the TiVo units were stolen from.”
The justice cited Penal Code Sec. 786, which provides in part that “when property is received in one jurisdictional territory with the knowledge that it has been stolen or embezzled and the property was stolen or embezzled in another jurisdictional territory, the jurisdiction of the offense is in any competent court within either jurisdictional territory...”
“Plugging our facts into the statute it readily appears that respondents (1) received property in one jurisdictional territory, i.e., Los Angeles County, (2) with knowledge it had been stolen, and (3) the property was stolen in another jurisdictional territory, i.e., Orange County. Therefore, by the plain terms of the statute, proper venue for the receiving count ‘is any competent court within either jurisdictional territory,’ i.e., Los Angeles County or Orange County. The statute, it seems, could hardly be clearer in this regard.”
The defense argument that venue is proper only if the defendant knew that the property was stolen in the county in which the case was filed is neither logical nor consistent with the “clear and unambiguous” statutory language, the justice went on to say.
Nor, Bedsworth wrote, does the statute violate the defendants’ constitutional right to be tried by a jury of the vicinage in which the crime was allegedly committed.
The vicinage right, the justice explained, is satisfied as long as the jury is drawn “from a place bearing some reasonable relationship to the crime in question.” He cited People v. Posey (2004) 32 C. 4th 193, in which the defendant was convicted in Marin County of selling cocaine, even though the actual exchange took place in San Francisco, where the purchaser was from Marin and telephoned from that county to arrange the transaction.
“Obviously, Orange County has a reasonable relationship to respondents’ alleged offense of receiving stolen property, because that is where the original taking occurred,” Bedsworth wrote. “Had the property not been stolen there, respondents could not have received it in Los Angeles County. In that sense, the Orange County theft was, by definition, requisite to respondents’ crime. Therefore, trying them in Orange County on the receiving stolen property charge will not violate their vicinage rights.”
The case is People v. Alvarado, G036766.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company