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State v. Rand

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

August 13, 2014

State of New Hampshire
v.
James Rand

The defendant, James Rand, appeals his convictions on five counts of receiving stolen property, see RSA 637:7 (2007), arguing that the trial court erred in: (1) joining charges in two separately docketed cases for one trial; and (2) denying his motion to dismiss the charges for insufficiency of the evidence. We affirm.

The record shows that on the afternoon of August 8, 2011, a resident of an apartment complex in Concord arrived home from work to find that his apartment had been burglarized. He discovered that a credit card had been stolen, among other things. The next day, he contacted his credit card company and learned that the stolen credit card had been used on the day of the burglary at a gas station and convenience store not far from the apartment complex. The resident reported this information to the Concord police, who contacted the store manager. The manager isolated the video surveillance footage relating to the transaction, which had been recorded with the store's security cameras. Photographs derived from the video footage showed a man at a gas pump standing next to a silver Saturn sedan with a sunroof and a rear "spoiler, " and then standing at the convenience store counter.

A police detective searched the parking lot of the apartment complex and found a matching silver Saturn vehicle in the parking lot. Another police detective, who knew the defendant, identified him as the man in the photographs. Motor vehicle records showed that the vehicle was registered to the defendant's wife, who lived with the defendant and their daughter in an apartment directly above the apartment that had been burglarized.

The police then obtained search warrants for the defendant's apartment and his wife's vehicle. The Saturn contained documents with the names of both the defendant and his wife. In the trunk of the vehicle, the police found a duffle bag containing two checkbooks belonging to people who testified that they had been lost or stolen. The bag also contained a notary public stamp that had been stolen in 2009 and a passport bearing the name of someone who had reported the theft of a violin. When the police searched the defendant's apartment, they found the stolen violin.

In case number 217-2011-CR-00758 (the credit card charge), the defendant was charged with receiving the stolen credit card. In case number 217-2011-CR-00759 (the 759 charges), the defendant was charged with receiving the stolen checkbooks, the stolen notary public stamp, and the stolen violin. The defendant first argues that the trial court erred in joining for trial the credit card charge with the 759 charges because the charges were not sufficiently related, and joinder was not in the best interests of justice. See Super. Ct. Crim. R. 97-A(I). "Superior Court Rule 97-A governs the joinder of criminal offenses and distinguishes between charges that are related and unrelated." State v. Brown, 159 N.H. 544, 548 (2009). The record shows that the State filed a motion to consolidate the two cases, asserting that they were "directly related." The trial court granted the motion pursuant to Superior Court Rule 97-A and denied the defendant's motion to reconsider. "When a party moves to join related charges, the trial court is required to join them unless it determines that joinder is not in the best interest of justice." Id. (quotation omitted). We will uphold the trial court's decision to join multiple charges unless the decision constitutes an unsustainable exercise of discretion. Id. at 550. To show that the trial court's decision was unsustainable, the defendant must demonstrate that the ruling was clearly untenable or unreasonable to the prejudice of his case. Id.

Pursuant to Superior Court Rule 97-A, two or more offenses are related if they:

(i) are alleged to have occurred during a single criminal episode; or
(ii) constitute parts of a common scheme or plan; or
(iii) are alleged to have occurred during separate criminal episodes, but nonetheless, are logically and factually connected in a manner that does not solely demonstrate that the accused has a propensity to engage in criminal conduct.

Super. Ct. Crim. R. 97-A(I)(A). "[W]hether offenses that occur during separate criminal episodes are 'logically and factually connected in a manner that does not solely demonstrate that the accused has a propensity to engage in criminal conduct' is largely determined by the close relationship among the offenses with respect to both the underlying charged conduct and the evidence to be used to prove the charges." Brown, 159 N.H. at 551. In Brown, we adopted the following factors to determine whether charges arising from separate criminal episodes are related:

(1) the temporal and spatial relationship among the underlying charged acts;
(2) the commonality of the victim(s) and/or participant(s) for the charged offenses;
(3) the similarity in the defendant's mode of operation;
(4) the duplication of law regarding the crimes ...

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