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State v. Eastep

Supreme Court of Oregon

August 10, 2017

STATE OF OREGON, Respondent on Review,
v.
THOMAS ELDON EASTEP, Petitioner on Review.

          Argued and submitted January 10, 2017

         On review from the Court of Appeals, CC 13CR0802; CA A155418.[*]

          Laura E. Coffn, Deputy Public Defender, Salem, argued the cause and fled the brief for petitioner on review. Also on the brief was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Offce of Public Defense Services.

          Jeff J. Payne, Assistant Attorney General, Salem, argued the cause and fled the brief for respondent on review. Also on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before Balmer, Chief Justice, and Kistler, Walters, Landau, and Nakamoto, Justices.

         [361 Or. 747] Case Summary:

         Defendant was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle (UUV). The state's evidence at trial showed that defendant had arranged to sell another person's truck, which was in a significant state of disrepair, for scrap. The trial court denied defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal, a jury thereafter convicted defendant as charged, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

         Held:

         (1) A vehicle may remain a "vehicle, " within the meaning of the UUV statute, ORS 164.135, even if it needs significant, but still reasonable, repairs; but (2) the state failed to establish that the truck that defendant had arranged to sell was in such a condition that it would have been reasonable to restore it to an operable condition; and, therefore, (3) the trial court erred when it denied defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal.

         The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The conviction for unauthorized use of a vehicle is reversed. The remaining convictions are affirmed, but the sentences are vacated, and the case is remanded for resentencing.

         [361 Or. 748] LANDAU, J.

         In this criminal case, defendant arranged to sell another person's truck for scrap. At the time, the truck was in a significant state of disrepair. He was charged with, and ultimately convicted of, unauthorized use of a vehicle (UUV). ORS 164.135. At trial, he argued that the state had failed to prove that he had used another person's "vehicle, " because the truck that he had arranged to sell was in a state of significant disrepair and was not currently operable. The trial court disagreed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. State v. Eastep, 277 Or.App. 673, 371 P.3d 1287 (2016). On review, defendant argues that, at least as used in the statute defining the offense of UUV, a "vehicle" must be capable of operation-which means either currently operable or operable with ordinary repairs-and there is no evidence that the truck was capable of operation. The state argues that the statute contains no requirement that a vehicle be currently operable or that it can become operable with ordinary repairs. In the state's view, a vehicle in need of significant repairs still may qualify as a "vehicle" under the UUV statute.

         We agree with the state that the word "vehicle, " as it is used in ORS 164.135(1)(a), includes no requirement of either current operability or capability of operation with only ordinary repairs. A vehicle may remain a "vehicle" within the meaning of that statute even if it needs more significant, but still reasonable, repairs. In this case, however, the state failed to establish that the truck that defendant had arranged to sell was in such a condition that it would have been reasonable to restore it to an operable condition. We therefore reverse defendant's conviction.

         We review the facts, and all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the state. State v. Davis, 360 Or. 201, 205, 377 P.3d 583 (2016). Stuart owned a pickup truck that was about 21 years old. The truck's "clutch had gone out, " so she had it towed to a location between her property and a nearby boat ramp parking lot. Although the truck was not operable, Stuart used it to store expensive tools. The truck sat by the boat ramp parking lot for four or five months.

         [361 Or. 749] Defendant noticed that the truck had been sitting there for a few days. He did not know who owned it. Nevertheless, he called an automobile wrecking company to have it towed. He completed a form certifying that he had a possessory lien on the truck and that he had properly foreclosed on that lien. The company towed the truck and paid defendant $100.

         Later that day, Stuart noticed that the truck was gone. She called the police to report it stolen. Police investigated and found that it had been towed away. The automobile wrecking company later returned the truck to Stuart.

         Within a month after that, Stuart sold the truck for $321, with the sales price based on weight, to a scrap metal business, in an effort to "[t]o take whatever [she] could get for it." A mechanic working for the business was able to start and run the engine, but the engine and the clutch pedal were "seized, " and the engine "was rattling so bad that [it] was no good." He also observed that the interior was torn up and "no good." The mechanic determined that the truck was "not capable of moving" under its own power because either the clutch or the transmission had seized up and that the truck was "no good, " "not operable, " and "strictly just scrap." The owner of the business planned to have it "scrapped out" by having it demolished after removing and saving a few windows.

         Defendant was charged with UUV, for "exercis[ing] control over" the truck without Stuart's consent, ORS 164.135(1)(a). He was also charged with first-degree theft of the truck, second-degree theft of the $100 that he received from the automobile wrecking company, and false swearing. The case was tried to a jury. At the close of the state's casein-chief, defendant moved for judgment of acquittal on the UUV count, arguing that the state was required to prove that the truck had been "operable" at the time that he exercised control over it. The trial court denied the motion. The jury found defendant guilty of UUV, second-degree theft, and false swearing, and the court entered a judgment of conviction and sentence on those counts.

         Defendant appealed the judgment, assigning error to the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of [361 Or. 750] acquittal on the UUV count. The Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that nothing in ORS 164.135(1)(a) required the state to prove ...


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