Court ruling handcuffs police in stolen car cases
Almost every day, Portland Police officers come upon a stolen car or truck, often being driven by someone other than the owner who reported it stolen. Surprisingly, instead of being arrested for vehicle theft, the suspect often is allowed to walk away, without even receiving a "Citation to Appear" in court.
Such was the case on the afternoon of Valentine's Day, February 14, when at 12:53 p.m., officers were called to S.E. Raymond Street, just east of 80th Avenue. "Someone called in that a reported-stolen white RAM 2500 Heavy Duty Hemi pickup truck, registered to ABC Roofing Company, was parked in the neighborhood – and a 'drug-affected-looking' couple were in and around it," remarked an officer at the scene.
The extended-cabin pickup truck was filled with personal items, and in the truck's bed was an apparently heavily-used motor scooter, and other items. During the investigation, officers determined that the couple did not own the business truck, and quite possibly didn't have permission to use it. But officers just watched as the couple removed their belongings from the truck.
In explanation, an officer told THE BEE that – when they were questioned – the couple claimed they'd "borrowed" the truck from a "friend", but neither the man nor the woman could agree on the name of the individual who'd "loaned" it to them. Bear in mind that it had been reported stolen, as most stolen cars are.
During the investigation, officers were seen removing a large ring of "jiggle keys" from inside the truck – that's a low-tech way to defeat an ignition lock and drive a vehicle. "They aren't being arrested, because the likelihood of their being prosecuted is extremely small," the officer explained.
As it turns out, this isn't due to lax prosecution by the Multnomah County District Attorney's office; it turns out that a four-year-old Oregon Court of Appeals decision has made it almost impossible to prosecute vehicle theft in Oregon – unless the suspect clearly admits to having stolen it.
It all stems from the case of "The STATE of Oregon, Plaintiff–Respondent, v. Jerrol Edwin SHIPE", [C120721CR; A152549], decided on July 23, 2014. Although the defendant was convicted for unauthorized use of a vehicle (UUV) – as well as unlawful possession of methamphetamine – when a police officer found him sitting in a stolen truck, afterward his defense lawyer successfully got the "unauthorized use of a vehicle" conviction overturned.
The legal opinion reads:
On appeal, defendant challenges only the UUV conviction, arguing that the trial court erred when it denied his motion for judgment of acquittal on that charge. According to defendant, the state failed to prove that he "knowingly" used the truck without the owner's consent, as charged.
With little prosecution of vehicle thieves in this state being possible, under this Oregon court ruling, you now know why so many cars and trucks are being stolen in Inner Southeast Portland. So keep your vehicle locked, and any possessions in it completely out of sight!