The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Rhodus on August 2, 2012.
Criminal Trespass of a Motor Vehicle—Theft by Receiving—Vehicular Eluding—Evidence—Expert Testimony—Closing Argument.
Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction following jury verdicts finding her guilty of first-degree criminal trespass, theft by receiving, and vehicular eluding. The judgment was vacated in part and affirmed in part.
Defendant contended there was insufficient evidence to support her conviction for first-degree criminal trespass of B.C.’s car because there was no evidence that anyone had entered it. An “entry” of a motor vehicle, for purposes of criminal trespass, requires an intrusion into the protected area of the motor vehicle. Evidence that a locked car door has been tampered with and opened is insufficient to support a conviction for first-degree criminal trespass. Here, no evidence was presented at trial that anyone or anything passed the line of the threshold into the protected interior area of B.C.’s car. Consequently, defendant’s conviction on this count was vacated.
Defendant contended there was insufficient evidence to support her conviction for class 4 felony theft by receiving of C.M.’s car. Defendant operated the car without a key, attempted to elude police and conceal the car from them, and fled on foot, effectively abandoning the car. Therefore, there was sufficient evidence to prove defendant knew the vehicle was stolen. Further, there was sufficient evidence to prove ownership and value of the vehicle.
Defendant contended there was insufficient evidence to permit the jury to find her guilty of vehicular eluding. At trial, the jury was presented evidence that defendant drove at high speeds around sharp corners, drove on the wrong side of the street, drove over front lawns in a residential neighborhood, and braked suddenly several times in an apparent attempt to cause a collision with the pursuing officer. This evidence was sufficient to permit the jury to conclude that defendant’s actions put the officer she was eluding at high risk of injury. Consequently, the evidence was sufficient to support the vehicular eluding conviction.
Defendant argued that the trial court erred by permitting the pursuing officer to present expert testimony in the guise of lay opinion testimony. The officer testified about his pursuit of defendant, and any reference to his “training and experience” of foot chases was harmless.
Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion by permitting the prosecutor to improperly discuss facts not in evidence during closing argument. The facts referred to by the prosecution were part of the record. Consequently, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by permitting the prosecution to discuss this fact and the inferences reasonably drawn from it during closing argument.
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