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Name: People v. Morelos et al.
Case #: F052418
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/24/2008

Unless a defendant receives multiple items of stolen property at a single time, multiple convictions of stolen property are permissible. Police seized sheets of blank checks and counterfeit money, check printing software, driver’s licenses, social security cards, credit cards, and lists of people’s personal identifying information from appellants’ house. Based on the evidence they were convicted of multiple counts of receiving stolen property, forgery of blank and altered checks, and possession of forged driver’s licenses. The court imposed consecutive or concurrent sentences on all counts. Appellants noted that the receiving counts involved different property stolen from various people on separate occasions, but nevertheless argued that only one receiving stolen property conviction could stand, or alternatively that all but one sentence should be stayed. If the evidence shows stolen goods from different sources are received on a single occasion, then there is only one offense of receiving stolen property. (People v. Lyons (1980) 50 Cal.2d 245.) But where there is evidence from which the jury can infer the stolen property was not received at the same time, this rule does not apply. (People v. Bullwinkle (1980) 105 Cal.App.3d 82.) Since appellants conceded the counts involved property stolen from different people at different times, nothing in the record shows appellants received the property at one time, and the record reasonably supports the inference they received the items at different times and places, multiple convictions as well as sentences on all counts were proper.
Possession of multiple blank checks constitutes a single violation of Penal Code section 475, subdivision (b). The 16 blank check counts involved 6 victims. Appellants argued that all but one of the convictions had to be stricken, while respondent contended that there should be six convictions, one for each victim. Relying on People v. Bowie (1977) 72 Cal.App.3d 143, and People v. Carter (1977) 75 Cal.App.3d 865, the court held all but one of the blank check counts had to be reversed because possession of multiple checks was deemed a single act, even though there were six different victims. On the other hand, because section 476, the altered checks statute, criminalizes conduct in the disjunctive, all of the altered check convictions were proper.
The intent and objective test of Penal Code section 654 is a rigorous one because a broad view would reward a defendant with greater criminal ambition with less punishment. Appellants argued that all but one of the “possession-related” counts (i.e., receiving counts, check counts, driver’s license counts) should be stayed because all involved a possession for financial gain. The court rejected this argument. To view this counterfeiting and forgery operation as a single act of possession would adopt the impermissible “broad and amorphous view.”
Under California Supreme Court precedent, there is no Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial on the application of section 654. Appellants argued that whether their crimes were committed pursuant to a single objective required jury findings. The Court of Appeal said it had to reject the argument because it was bound by the doctrine of stare decisis.