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Name: People v. Thomas
Case #: S185305
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 05/03/2012

Venue is proper in the county where defendant lived and sold drugs even though his inventory of drugs and his gun were located in a neighboring county. Appellant was charged in Madera County with possession of cocaine for sale and possession of a gun by a felon. Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint based on improper venue because the drugs and firearm were located in Fresno County. That motion, as well as a subsequent Penal Code section 995 motion, were denied. Appellant was convicted and sentenced to 33 years to life in prison. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the appropriate venue was in Fresno County. The Supreme Court reversed. Generally, the appropriate venue for a criminal case is the county in which the offense is committed. Venue does not implicate the trial court’s fundamental jurisdiction to hear the case; it establishes the proper place for trial. It promotes the convenience of both parties in obtaining evidence and producing witnesses. It results in a trial in a county that bears a reasonable relationship to the alleged criminal offense. There are exceptions to the general venue rule – Penal Code section 781 provides that when an offense is committed in part in one jurisdiction and in part in another, or the acts or effects of the crime occur in two or more jurisdictions, the territorial jurisdiction may be in any competent court within either county. Here, venue was proper in Madera County. The appellant committed preparatory acts in Madera and the effects of appellant’s unlawful possession of the drugs and firearm found in Fresno would be felt there. Madera was the appellant’s “base of operations” and he also participated in gang activities and sold drugs there.