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Name: People v. Ceja
Case #: S157932
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 05/17/2010
Summary

Where a defendant is improperly convicted of stealing and receiving the same property, the conviction for receiving stolen property must be reversed irrespective of which offense has the greater penalty. A jury convicted appellant of misdemeanor petty theft of a speaker box and felony receipt of stolen property, i.e., the speaker box. Penal Code section 496, subdivision (a) specifies that a defendant may not be convicted of stealing and receiving the same property, but does not indicate which conviction stands when defendant has been convicted of both. In this case, the trial court sentenced appellant to two years in prison for the receiving charge and a stayed jail term for the petty theft charge. Analogizing to the rule that when a defendant is convicted of both a greater and lesser offense sentence is imposed on the greater, the Court of Appeal reversed the theft conviction. The Supreme Court disagreed with the analogy, and instead referred to the common law for resolution of the issue. Under the common law, it was logically impossible for a thief who had stolen a specific item of property to receive that item from himself. Since the Legislature did not alter this common-law rule when it amended Penal Code section 496, subdivision (a) to state that a person may not be convicted of theft and receiving the same stolen property, the common-law rationale governs, and the receiving conviction must be reversed without consideration as to the discrepancy in penalty. Although not at issue in this case, the Supreme Court noted that when a defendant is charged with stealing and receiving the same property, juries should be instructed to reach a verdict on the theft charge first and that a guilty verdict on the theft will make it unnecessary to consider the receiving charge.