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State v. J.W.

December 9, 1996

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
J.W., B.D. 01-26-81, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 95-8-04248-3. Date filed: 10/09/95. Judge signing: Hon. Marsha J. Pechman.

PER CURIAM. -- J.W. appeals his juvenile court Disposition of second degree theft. He argues reversal is warranted because there was insufficient evidence to show that he participated in taking the victim's boat and that it was worth over $250. He also claims that the court erred by failing to enter a finding that he intended to deprive the victim of his property, an essential element of the crime. Because none of J.W.'s arguments merit reversal, we affirm.

FACTS

Richard Feutz' waterfront home is located on the north shore of Lake Steel. At about 2 a.m., he saw two people walking near his outside shed. From his upstairs deck Feutz yelled, "what are you doing in my shed?" They walked over to Feutz' neighbor's property and got into a paddle boat parked near the shore. A third person was already in the boat. All three began paddling away from shore. There were no other boats out on the lake.

Officer Paul George stated that when he illuminated his flashlight on the boat and ordered the occupants to stop, they headed further out towards the middle of the lake. George eventually persuaded them to come to shore. J.W. was later identified as one of the three boys in the boat. George testified that J.W. was sitting on the front right side of the boat and appeared to be controlling the boat. Officer Scott Fisher testified that when he directed the boys to bring in the boat, they said they were having trouble steering the boat. After Fisher told them he would get them, they had no trouble moving the boat towards the dock.

The owner of the boat, Thomas Dezutter lives on the west end of the lake. He stores his boat on the beach in front of his house. Dezutter testified that the boat was on his property the evening before the incident but he did not say what time he last saw the boat. He did not give anyone permission to take his boat. He first found out it was gone when the police called him at 3 a.m. They were able to identify the boat because Dezutter's last name is written on the back of one of the seats and inside the hull. It was undisputed that Dezutter paid $450 for the boat in 1991. He described it as being in excellent condition on the night it was taken.

The court found J.W. guilty of second degree theft. The court orally ruled:

The time of day, the manner in which the boys paddled out when they're being yelled at, the fact that Mr. Dezutter gave no permission for anyone to be in his boat, leads me to the Conclusion that the three people in the boat knew that they did not have permission to be in the boat and they had taken it. And that is a Theft in the Second Degree.

DECISION

The test of sufficiently of the evidence is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Green, 94 Wash. 2d 216, 221, 616 P.2d 628 (1980). In order to prove J.W. guilty of second degree theft, the State was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he unlawfully took property which exceeded $250 in value. RCW 9A.56.040(1)(a).

J.W. contends that no rational trier of fact could conclude from the evidence that he participated in taking the boat because there was no direct evidence linking him to the initial theft. We disagree. "Circumstantial evidence is no less reliable than direct evidence; specific criminal intent may be inferred from circumstances as a matter of logical probability." State v. Zamora, 63 Wash. App. 220, 223, 817 P.2d 880 (1991).

The undisputed evidence presented here was that Dezutter's boat had been taken without his permission from his home on the west side of the lake. Although he did not state when he last saw it, he did say it was in its usual place on the evening before the early morning incident. When Feutz spotted the boat, it was on the north end of the lake. One boy was already sitting in it and the other two went directly to the boat and got in after Feutz yelled at them. They proceeded to paddle away from the shore.

When the police arrived, the boys did not come to shore when asked but attempted to move the boat towards the middle of the lake. There were no other boats on the water. With these facts, a rational trier of fact could have inferred that J.W. participated in taking the boat from Dezutter and that he did not merely come on the scene after the boat had landed on Feutz' neighbor's property.

J.W. also claims that the evidence was insufficient to prove that the boat was worth more than $250. But as the court noted in its oral ruling, "the boat's value is undisputed to be $475 [sic]." Dezutter testified that he paid $450 for the boat and that it was in excellent condition. The State presented a bill of sale confirming that Dezutter paid that amount for the boat without objection from defense counsel. J.W., on the other hand, presented no evidence as to the boat's value. The evidence was sufficient to establish that the boat was worth more than $250.

Finally, J. W. contends that the court's findings are inadequate under JuCR 7.11 because there is no finding that he intended to deprive Dezutter of his property, a necessary element. He also argues that because the record does not support such a finding, reversal is required. We disagree. The finding is implicit in the court's oral ruling and is supported by the evidence. "Reversal and dismissal is appropriate only in those instances in which the record is devoid of evidence to support the omitted finding." State v. Bynum, 76 Wash. App. 262. 884 P.2d 10 (1994), review denied, 126 Wash. 2d 1012, 892 P.2d 1089 (1995). Moreover, in light of the court's oral ruling, remand for ...


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