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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JEFFREY PHILLIPS (10/20/78)

decided: October 20, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JEFFREY PHILLIPS, APPELLANT



No. 306 March Term, 1977, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Criminal Division, No. 888 of 1976.

COUNSEL

Robert Bruce Evanick, Assistant Public Defender, York, for appellant.

Floyd P. Jones, Assistant District Attorney, York, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jacobs, President Judge, and Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, Spaeth and Hester, JJ. Hoffman, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Jacobs

[ 258 Pa. Super. Page 112]

Appellant Jeffrey Phillips was convicted by a jury of receiving stolen property and escape. The only issue he raises on this appeal is whether the evidence presented was sufficient to sustain his conviction of receiving stolen property. A review of the record indicates that the evidence was sufficient. Our review of the record also indicates, however, that the sentence imposed upon appellant was illegal; we therefore remand this case to the lower court for resentencing.

The test for determining sufficiency of the evidence is whether, accepting as true all evidence and all reasonable inferences deducible from such evidence upon which the trier of fact could have based a verdict, the evidence and inferences are sufficient in law to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, we must review the evidence in a light most favorable to the Commonwealth. Commonwealth v. Williams, 468 Pa. 357, 365, 362 A.2d 244, 248 (1976). A conviction for receiving stolen property may be sustained only if the evidence is sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the property was stolen, (2) the accused received the property, and (3) the accused knew or had reasonable cause to know that it was stolen. Commonwealth v. Houmis, 227 Pa. Super. 573, 575, 307 A.2d 339, 339-40 (1973), allocatur refused, 227 Pa. Super. xxvi; the Act of Dec. 6, 1972, P.L. 1482, No. 334, § 1, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3925(a).

In the case before us, there is no question that the property (a 250 cc trail and street motorbike) was stolen or that appellant received the property (the police found appellant riding the motorbike). The only question, therefore, is whether appellant knew or had reasonable cause to know that the bike was stolen.

[ 258 Pa. Super. Page 113]

Knowledge that property is stolen may be established by direct or circumstantial evidence. If, from circumstantial evidence, it can be inferred that the accused had reasonable cause to know that the property was stolen, a final inference can be made that the accused in fact knew that the property was stolen. Commonwealth v. Henderson, 451 Pa. 452, 455, 304 A.2d 154, 156 (1973). Among those circumstantial factors which support an inference of knowledge are the accused's relationship with the victim, the time elapsed between theft and possession, the situs of the theft and the situs of possession, the kind and quantity of property involved, any identifying characteristics of the property, the ease with which the property could be assimilated into trade channels, and the accused's conduct at the time of arrest. Commonwealth v. Lasch, 464 Pa. 573, 589, 347 A.2d 690, 698 (1975); Commonwealth v. Henderson, 451 Pa. at 455, 304 A.2d at 156; Commonwealth v. Murray, 246 Pa. Super. 422, 428, 371 A.2d 910, 912 (1977).

The trial testimony showed that on June 3, 1976 a blue, 250 cc Kawasaki trail and street motorbike was stolen from Ross Farrar who resided in York, Pennsylvania. Approximately one week later, appellant was found riding the motorbike, also in York. The blue gas tank of the bike had been inartfully repainted black; blue paint could still be seen beneath the black. One of two serial numbers on the bike had been partially obliterated. Appellant possessed no driver's license or owner's card for the bike and he told the police that he had borrowed the bike from a friend, one Jeff Sawyer.

Subsequent to June 10, a person who identified himself as Jeff Sawyer went to the York Police Department and asked to have his motorbike returned to him. He could produce no owner's card or title for the bike, but he did offer a handwritten "receipt" which said he paid one Mark Thomas $100 for the bike. When the police told Sawyer that his receipt was not adequate to prove ...


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