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State v. Owens

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

March 27, 2014

The State of Washington, Petitioner,
Jeramie David Owens, Respondent

Argued: January 21, 2014.

Appeal from Snohomish County Superior Court. 10-1-01499-8. Honorable Richard T. Okrent.

Mark K. Roe, Prosecuting Attorney, and Seth A. Fine, Deputy, for petitioner.

Oliver R. Ross (of Washington Appellate Project ), for respondent.

AUTHOR: Justice Charles W. Johnson. WE CONCUR: Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen, Justice Susan Owens, Justice Mary E. Fairhurst, Justice James M. Johnson, Justice Debra L. Stephens, Justice Charles K. Wiggins, Justice Steven C. Gonzá lez, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud.


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Charles W. Johnson, Justice.

[180 Wn.2d 92] ¶ 1 This case involves whether RCW 9A.82.050(1) describes alternative means of committing first degree trafficking in stolen property, and if so, whether substantial evidence supports each of the alternative means in this case. The Court of Appeals, Division One, held that RCW 9A.82.050 describes eight alternative means of committing the crime, and because there was insufficient evidence to support at least one of those eight means, the court reversed the defendant's conviction. We reverse the Court of Appeals, reinstate the conviction, and hold that RCW 9A.82.050 describes only two alternative means, and in this case, each is supported by sufficient evidence.

Facts and Procedural History

¶ 2 On July 2, 2010, Jeramie Owens and a friend went to the Motor City car dealership in Mount Vernon, Washington [180 Wn.2d 93], and inspected a 1967 Volkswagen (VW) Beetle with a high-performance engine and a roof rack with a surfboard on top. They took it out for a test drive, and Owens told the salesman he restored and worked on VWs and had a VW tattoo on his back. They left without purchasing the car or leaving their names. The next day, Saturday, July 3, 2010, the salesman opened the dealership and discovered that the back gate to the car lot was open and the padlock securing it had been cut off. The same 1967 VW Beetle that Owens test drove the day before had been stolen off the lot, and one of the dealer's keys was missing.

¶ 3 The next business day, Tuesday, July 6, 2010, Owens registered a 1971 VW Beetle, the registration for which had expired in 1993. On July 28, 2010, in response to a Craigslist advertisement posted by Owens, Craig Sauvageau purchased the 1971 VW Beetle from Owens. Claiming he had lost the title, Owens provided Sauvageau with an affidavit in lieu of title. Sauvageau took the car to an auto shop to have it inspected and worked on. The mechanic discovered that

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parts for a 1971 VW Beetle did not fit in the car and that a vehicle identification number (VIN) plate on the car (matching the VIN for the 1971 Beetle registered by Owens on July 6) appeared to be brand new and recently reinstalled with rivets. The mechanic informed Sauvageau of these discrepancies, and Sauvageau called the police to report the car as potentially stolen.

¶ 4 When the officers arrived, they identified the confidential VIN on the car. Confidential VINs are usually engraved on a car's frame in an area known only to police. This confidential VIN did not match the newly installed VIN plate, but did match the VIN for the 1967 VW Beetle reported stolen from Motor City on July 3, 2010. The vehicle was returned to Motor City, and Motor City employees noted that it was missing the roof rack and surfboard; was painted a different color; and had a different, more inferior engine than the original high-performance engine. Sauvageau was able to identify Owens from a picture lineup, and the police [180 Wn.2d 94] confirmed that Owens had a VW tattoo on his back. An officer drove by Owens's residence and observed a yellow VW Beetle with a roof rack. Another officer located another Craigslist post by Owens advertising a yellow " Baja" style VW Beetle with a high-performance engine of the same model as the high-performance engine in the stolen 1967 VW Beetle. This officer contacted Owens, posing as a potential buyer for the yellow Beetle, and set up a meeting to see the car at Owens's residence. At the meeting, Owens was arrested, and a search warrant was executed on his residence.

¶ 5 During the search, the police recovered the stolen surfboard and a rivet gun. The police also impounded the yellow Beetle, which contained an engine of the same make and model and with the same aftermarket addition as the engine from the original 1967 Beetle stolen from Motor City. [1] Owens was advised of his rights and he told the police that he had test driven the 1967 Beetle at Motor City on July 2, 2010, and ...

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