from the Judgment of Sentence imposed July 19, 2018 In the
Court of Common Pleas of Berks County Criminal Division at
BEFORE: BOWES, OLSON, and STABILE, JJ.
Joseph Manuel Maldonado-Vallespil, appeals from the judgment
of sentence imposed on July 19, 2018 in the Court of Common
Pleas of Berks County after a jury convicted him of receiving
stolen property, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3925. Appellant contends
the trial court did not have jurisdiction over the crime. We
agree and, therefore, vacate the judgment of sentence.
Rule 1925(a) opinion, the trial court provided the following
statement of facts:
On October 31, 2017, the victim in this case, Jose Munoz
("Mr. Munoz"), resided at 507 N. 14th
Street, Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania ("the
Residence"), and was the owner of the Sonador
construction company. Appellant was one of Mr. Munoz's
On the above date, Appellant contacted Mr. Munoz and informed
him that he would not be working for him anymore. On that
same day, Mr. Munoz arrived at work and noticed that he was
missing some tools from the inside of his truck. When Mr.
Munoz arrived at the Residence later that afternoon, he
contacted the police department regarding the missing items.
Law enforcement officers arrived at the Residence and Mr.
Munoz showed them where the tools were supposed to be inside
of his truck. While the officers were present, Mr. Munoz
contacted Appellant via telephone and asked him to return the
tools. Appellant admitted that he took Mr. Munoz's tools
and sold them. Appellant stated that he needed to speak to
the purchaser of the tools in order to have them returned.
Appellant was instructed by law enforcement to return the
tools by 8:00 a.m. the following day. No charges were filed
that evening in order to allow Appellant to return the
missing tools. Appellant subsequently requested that Mr.
Munoz grant him some additional time but Mr. Munoz adhered to
the 8:00 a.m. deadline. Appellant failed to return the tools.
Trial Court Opinion, 11/7/18, at 2-3 (references to notes of
trial testimony omitted).
was charged with theft from a motor vehicle, receiving stolen
property, and theft by unlawful taking or disposition. The
case proceeded to a jury trial on July 18, 2018. After the
prosecution rested, Appellant's counsel moved for a
judgment of acquittal, arguing the Commonwealth failed to
establish jurisdiction. Following argument, the trial court
denied the motion. At the conclusion of the defense case,
counsel again moved for a judgment of acquittal and the trial
court again denied the motion.
deliberations, the jury found Appellant guilty of receiving
stolen property but acquitted him on the theft charges. The
trial court sentenced Appellant to serve one to five years in
a state correctional facility and gave him credit for time
served totaling 246 days. Appellant filed a post- sentence
motion, which the trial court denied. This timely appeal
followed. Both Appellant and the trial court complied with
asks us to consider one issue in this appeal:
Whether the trial court erroneously denied Appellant's
motion for judgment of acquittal that asserted the court
lacked subject matter jurisdiction once the prosecution
failed to establish the locus of the criminal act.
Appellant's Brief at 5.
challenge to the trial court's subject matter
jurisdiction, Appellant presents a question of law for which
our standard of review is de novo. Commonwealth v.
Bethea, 828 A.2d 1066, 1071 n.5 (Pa. 2003). The scope of
our review is plenary. Id.
As this Court recently noted:
Subject matter jurisdiction "relates to the competency
of the individual court . . . to determine controversies of
the general class to which a particular case belongs."
Green Acres Rehab. & Nursing Ctr. v. Sullivan,
113 A.3d 1261, 1268 (Pa. Super. 2015). "The want of
jurisdiction over the subject matter may be questioned at any
time. It may be questioned either in the trial court, before
or after judgment, or for the first time in an appellate
court, and it is fatal at any stage of the proceedings, even
when collaterally involved . . .." In re
Patterson's Estate, 341 Pa. 177, 19 A.2d 165, 166
(1941). Moreover, it is "well settled that a judgment or
decree rendered by a court which lacks jurisdiction of the
subject matter or of the person is null and void . . .."
Com. ex rel. Howard v. Howard, 138 Pa. Super. 505,
10 A.2d 779, 781 (1940). The question of subject matter
jurisdiction may be raised at any time, by any party, or by
the court sua sponte. Grimm v. Grimm, 149
A.3d 77, 82 (Pa. Super. 2016).
Strasburg Scooters, LLC v. Strasburg Rail Road,
Inc., 210 A.3d 1064, 1067-68 (Pa. Super. 2019).
accordance with our Crimes Code, "a person may be
convicted under the law of this Commonwealth of an offense
committed by his own conduct [if] the
conduct which is an element of the offense or the
result which is such an element occurs within this
Commonwealth." 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 102(a)(1)
(emphasis added). Here, Appellant was convicted of the sole
charge of receiving stolen property. The offense of
"receiving stolen property" is defined as follows:
"A person is guilty of theft if he intentionally
receives, retains, or disposes of movable property of another
knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it has
probably been stolen, unless the property is received,
retained, or disposed with intent to restore it to the
owner." 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3925(a). "As used in
this section the word 'receiving' means acquiring
possession, control or title, or lending on the security of
the property." 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3925(b).
we have the unusual situation in which Appellant acknowledged
in a cell phone conversation with Mr. Munoz that he took and
later sold Mr. Munoz's tools. However, nowhere in the
testimony presented at trial is there any indication that
Appellant or the tools were within the
Commonwealth when Appellant "received,
retained, or disposed" the tools. Specifically, there
was no testimony as to the location of Mr. Munoz's
construction company or the location of his truck when Mr.
Munoz discovered that tools were missing. The testimony from
Mr. Munoz revealed only that he arrived "at work"
on October 31 and noticed that tools were missing from his
truck. He later returned to his residence, which we
acknowledge was located in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
However, we do not know the location from which Mr. Munoz
returned to his residence. From his Berks County residence,
Mr. Munoz contacted the police to report his tools were
stolen. It was at the Berks County residence that Mr. Munoz
showed the officers where the tools "were supposed to
be" inside his truck. From the residence, he contacted
Appellant by phone. However, the record is silent as to where
Appellant was located when he spoke with Mr. Munoz.
brief, the Commonwealth concedes:
The Commonwealth acknowledges, as it must, that the record
from trial is silent as to the location where the theft
occurred, the location of the unlawful disposition of the
property to a third party, the location where the property
was last seen prior to being stolen, the location of the
truck at the moment the victim discovered his tools were
missing, and [Appellant's] physical location when he
confessed by telephone.
Brief at 9. Despite the lack of any evidence that any
"conduct which is an element of the offense . . .
occur[red] within this Commonwealth," as required for
jurisdiction under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 102(a)(1), the
Commonwealth asserts, "Nevertheless, the trial court had
subject matter jurisdiction because [Appellant] communicated
his ability and intent to restore the property to the victim
in Pennsylvania and subsequently failed to do so.
Id. We cannot agree. The fact that Mr. Munoz was at
his Pennsylvania residence when he spoke with Appellant by
phone about the stolen ...