Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Adams County, Feb. T., 1973, No. 103, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Jack J. Jett, Sr. and Frances M. Jett.
Gary E. Hartman, Assistant Public Defender, and Eugene R. Hartman, for appellants.
Oscar F. Spicer, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Cercone, J. Jacobs and Price, JJ., concur in the result.
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This appeal arises from the appellants' convictions for fraudulent conversion. The appeal raises a novel question concerning the location of title in the property allegedly converted, a Lowry organ. The appellants urge that the lower court erred when it determined that, under the terms of the installment sales contract, title to the property remained in the seller until appellant-buyers paid the balance of the installments due under the contract.
The appellants purchased the organ from the complainant, Menchey Music Service of Hanover, Pennsylvania, on December 24, 1970. After making a down payment and three monthly installments, the appellants defaulted on their payments in April, 1971, and apparently have never made any further payments. The evidence indicates that after September, 1971, the appellants were contacted on several occasions concerning their default, and eventually were served with a writ of replevin. The property could not be replevied, however, because the appellants had sold it.
It is admitted that, with the exception of the question of title, the evidence produced at trial was sufficient to support the verdict. However, under Section 4834 of The Penal Code of 1939 (Fraudulent Conversion of Property),*fn1 the Commonwealth was required to
[ 230 Pa. Super. Page 375]
prove more than the fact that Menchey Music Service was entitled to possession of the organ because of the default in installment payments -- the Commonwealth had to show that title to the organ was in Menchey Music Service: Commonwealth v. Bartello, 225 Pa. Superior Ct. 277 (1973); Commonwealth v. Yocum, 211 Pa. Superior Ct. 17 (1967); Commonwealth v. Overheim, 106 Pa. Superior Ct. 424 (1932). Thus, the question is, under the terms of the sale and the law in effect at the time the transaction took place, did Menchey Music Service have title to the property.
Although this is a criminal case, its resolution depends upon commercial law; to wit, the Uniform Commercial Code.*fn2 The creation of the Code was sparked by the rapidly widening gap between the realities of modern commercial practice and the antiquated, often abstruse and frequently contradictory body of commercial law which preceded the Uniform Commercial Code. In its present form the Code represents a comprehensive, and highly consistent body of law encompassing most commercial transactions, including the transaction involved in the instant case.*fn3
The Code drafters did not favor the retention of the former "single" or "lump" title concepts that had dominated, and confused, commercial law prior to the adoption of the ...