Moehring v. Commonwealth

In Moehring v. Commonwealth, 223 Va. 564, 290 S.E.2d 891 (1982), Faison and the defendant were hitchhiking. See id. at 566, 290 S.E.2d at 891. Keeling, leaving his keys in the ignition, went into a gas station to pay for gas he had just pumped. See id. Faison got into Keeling's vehicle and drove off. See id. The defendant was still across the road hitchhiking. See id. Faison drove north on Route 17 and disappeared from sight. See id., 290 S.E.2d at 892. Several minutes later, Faison reappeared, driving south on Route 17. See id. He stopped, picked up the defendant, and drove off again. See id. Faison testified at trial that the defendant knew nothing of the theft and that the defendant implored him to stop for the police. See id. at 567, 290 S.E.2d at 892. The trial court convicted the defendant because he saw the vehicle being taken and then left the scene in the stolen vehicle. See id. The Supreme Court reversed the conviction, stating: The Commonwealth's evidence and the reasonable inferences deducible from that evidence do not establish that Moehring aided Faison in the theft or that he shared Faison's intent to deprive Keeling of his truck. All that the prosecution proved was that two men were observed walking south along Route 17 in the early morning hours of March 23, 1980; that each was attempting to "thumb" a ride from passing motorists; that one of the men, Faison, apparently despaired of success, left his fellow hitchhiker and went across the highway and stole a truck; that the other man, Moehring, continued walking and "thumbing"; and that some minutes later Moehring was given a ride in the stolen truck. When Faison committed his larceny of the truck, Moehring was across a double-lane highway some distance from the scene. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to regard him as a "lookout," or an accessory before the fact. And the mere acceptance by Moehring of a ride in the stolen vehicle (and like acceptance by another hitchhiker who was acquitted of the larceny of the truck) did not in any way aid Faison. Taken in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the evidence fails to meet either the overt act or shared intent requirements of Triplett and Murray, supra. Because larceny is a continuing offense, anyone who knows that personal property is stolen and assists in its transportation or disposition is guilty of larceny. Dunlavey v. Commonwealth, 184 Va. 521, 35 S.E.2d 763 (1945). However, in the instant case there is no evidence that Moehring assisted in any way in the transportation or disposition of the truck he knew to be stolen. On the contrary, Faison testified it was the defendant who finally convinced him to abandon his flight and surrender to the police. The arresting officer noticed the exchange between Moehring and Faison prior to the time Faison stopped. The officer said "he Moehring reached over once and grabbed him or poked him or something to that effect." . . . Neither do we find evidence that established beyond a reasonable doubt that Moehring countenanced or approved the theft of the truck by Faison, or wished the venture to succeed. The most that can be said with reasonable certainty is that this defendant-hitchhiker accepted a ride from the first person who stopped and that he knew that person was driving a stolen vehicle. This conduct does raise a suspicion of guilt. However, it is not sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed grand larceny. 223 Va. at 567-568, 290 S.E.2d at 892-93.