State v. Deshazer

State v. Deshazer, 2016 MT 8 (Jan. 12, 2016) (Shea, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in denying Deshazer’s motion to dismiss for improper venue.

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: The state charged Deshazer with felony theft by common scheme in December 2013 for double-cashing seven paychecks issued to Deshazer. Deshazer deposited the checks from a Ravalli County employment agency, SS Staffing, to one bank via a mobile banking application on his phone, and then submitted them to a different bank for deposit thereafter. SS Staffing reported the double-cashing to Hamilton police.

The state charged Deshazer in Ravalli County, and he moved to dismiss on the basis of improper venue. The district court denied the motion, reasoning the stolen funds were unlawfully transferred from SS Staffing’s bank in Ravalli County.

Procedural Posture & Holding: After a bench trial, Deshazer was convicted of felony theft by common scheme. The parties stipulated to $1,549.03 in restitution, and Deshazer was sentenced to a five-year commitment to the Department of Corrections, Deshazer appeals, arguing his motion to dismiss should have been granted, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: A criminal defendant has a constitutional right to trial by a jury of the county or district where the offense is alleged to have been committed. Mont. Const. Art. II, § 24. However, when the requisite criminal acts occur in more than one county, charges may be filed in any county in which any of the acts or offenses occurred. MCA § 46-3-112(1). The state had the authority to charge Deshazer in any county in which either of the elements of felony theft by common scheme occurred. Until the funds were transferred out of SS Staffing’s account, Deshazer did not exert unauthorized control over them. That act took place in Ravalli County.