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COMMONWEALTH v. SIMEONE (09/15/72)

decided: September 15, 1972.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SIMEONE, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, No. 1416 of 1969, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Anthony Simeone.

COUNSEL

Joseph Michael Smith, with him F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., for appellant.

Stephen B. Harris, First Assistant District Attorney, with him Kenneth G. Biehn, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, Cercone, and Packel, JJ. Opinion by Packel, J. Concurring Opinion by Hoffman, J. Spaulding, J., joins in this opinion.

Author: PACKEL

[ 222 Pa. Super. Page 377]

The appellant, convicted in Bucks County for receiving stolen goods in Bucks County, claims double jeopardy because of his previous acquittal in Philadelphia, on similar charges, on the ground that he had not received the goods in Philadelphia. The issue is raised as to whether in Philadelphia he could have been properly found guilty for taking possession of the stolen goods in Bucks County.

The record shows that another individual stole a trailer from a Philadelphia loading dock and drove it to Bucks County where he and the appellant unloaded its contents into the warehouse of the latter. At their non-jury trial in Philadelphia the other individual pled guilty to burglary of a motor vehicle, larceny and receiving stolen goods, and the appellant was acquitted. Later the appellant was convicted in Bucks County for receiving stolen goods and for conspiracy.

The contention is made that the proper place for the trial of a crime is merely a question of venue and not a question of subject matter jurisdiction. We do not start with a clean slate. Embedded in the common law*fn1 is the proposition that the subject matter jurisdiction

[ 222 Pa. Super. Page 378]

    of criminal courts extends only to offenses committed within the county of trial. Commonwealth ex rel. Chatary v. Nailon, 416 Pa. 280, 283, 206 A.2d 43, 45 (1965) ("It is, of course, the law that 'the locus of a crime is always in issue, for the court has no jurisdiction of the offense unless it occurred within the county of trial, or unless, by some statute, it need not. . .'"); Commonwealth v. Mull, 316 Pa. 424, 175 A. 418 (1934); Commonwealth v. Lawrence, 282 Pa. 128, 127 A. 465 (1925); Commonwealth ex rel. Ritchey v. McHugh, 189 Pa. Superior Ct. 515, 520, 151 A.2d 659, 661 (1959); Commonwealth v. Tarsnane, 170 Pa. Superior Ct. 265, 85 A.2d 606 (1952); Commonwealth v. Wojdakowski, 161 Pa. Superior Ct. 250, 257, 53 A.2d 851, 855 (1947); Commonwealth v. Sexton, 107 Pa. Superior Ct. 69, 162 A. 678 (1932) (allocatur refused); Commonwealth v. Bingaman, 51 Pa. Superior Ct. 336 (1912) (allocatur refused).*fn2 One of the opinions delivered in Simmons v. Commonwealth, 5 Binney 617, 628-629 (1813) (Brackenridge, J., dissenting on other grounds) contains the earliest appellate recognition of this rule in Pennsylvania and provides an informative view of its historic foundation: "One county is as distinct

[ 222 Pa. Super. Page 379]

    from another, as one country from another, in respect of the right of jurisdiction. Personal actions follow the person, and there is a fiction of the contract being in the county where the person is . . . And there is no fiction in a criminal case so as to give jurisdiction. . . . By the ancient law, 'all offenses were said to be done against the peace of the county; contra pacem vice comitis,' 1 Black. 117. And though Alfred, to keep within the bounds of the universal or common law, gave the control to the king's own courts, in consequence of which offences were laid to be contra pacem domini regis, yet it still remained a principle, 'that the trial of all causes civil and criminal must be in the very district where the cause of complaint arose,' 4 Black. 411. Fiction in civil cases . . . has dispensed with this as to actions purely personal, but in criminal never."

Although the cases present some confusion between language of jurisdiction and that of venue, there is no doubt that the actuality of what our courts have done is to treat the place of the crime as determining which court has the power to try the offense. Our reports are filled with opinions which discuss the jurisdiction of criminal courts to try cases when certain elements of the prosecuted crimes are alleged to have occurred in different counties: Commonwealth v. Marino, 213 Pa. Superior Ct. 88, 245 A.2d 868 (1968) aff'd 435 Pa. 245, 255 A.2d 911 (1969), cert. den. sub nom., Rispo v. Pennsylvania, 395 U.S. 983 (1969) (blackmail); Commonwealth v. Rogers, 187 Pa. Superior Ct. 471, 144 A.2d 662 (1958) (allocatur refused) (conspiracy); Commonwealth v. Rosicci, 199 Pa. Superior Ct. 609, 186 A.2d 648 (1962) (allocatur ...


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