Darnell v. Com., 1683-89-2

Citation12 Va.App. 948, 408 S.E.2d 540
Case DateJuly 16, 1991
CourtCourt of Appeals of Virginia

Page 540

408 S.E.2d 540
12 Va.App. 948
Record No. 1683-89-2.
Court of Appeals of Virginia.
July 16, 1991.

Page 541

[12 Va.App. 950] C. David Whaley (Elizabeth Dashiell Scher, Morchower, Luxton and Whaley, Richmond, on brief), for appellant.

Richard B. Smith, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Mary Sue Terry, Atty. Gen., on brief), for appellee.

Present: BARROW, COLE * and WILLIS, JJ.

COLE, Judge.

The defendant, John K. Darnell, appeals his convictions of two counts of taking, obtaining, or withholding a credit card in violation of Code § 18.2-192. He contends that the trial court should have dismissed the charges on double jeopardy grounds because he had previously been convicted of petit larceny of a "pocketbook containing U.S. currency, credit cards and miscellaneous items." He argues that the second prosecution is barred under the holding in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 52 S.Ct. 180, 76 L.Ed. 306 (1932), Grady v. Corbin, 495 U.S. 508, 110 S.Ct. 2084, 109 L.Ed.2d 548 (1990), and the provisions of Code § 19.2-294. We find that the prosecutions under Code § 18.2-192 are barred by Grady and, therefore, we reverse the convictions.

On March 6, 1989, Douglas Long's wallet was taken from his pants, which were hanging in the locker room at the Westwood Racquet Club. The wallet contained $61 in cash and other items, [12 Va.App. 951] including a Dominion Bank "Most" card and an American Express card. He went to a nearby Dominion Bank to report the loss of his Dominion Bank card. When he arrived at the bank, he saw the defendant walking away from an automatic teller machine with the Dominion Bank card in his hand. Long remembered seeing the defendant in the locker room before his wallet was taken, so he confronted the defendant and retrieved his wallet and credit cards. The money was not in the wallet, but the defendant removed it from his pants and returned it to Long.

Henrico County Police Officer E.J. Kopacki arrived at the scene and took a statement from the defendant. The defendant admitted taking the wallet from Mr. Long's trousers. He also admitted removing the money from the wallet, but claimed he did not know the credit cards were in the wallet.

On April 6, 1989, the defendant was convicted in the general district court of petit larceny of a "pocketbook containing U.S. currency, credit cards and misc. items" belonging to Douglas Long in violation of Code § 18.2-96. 1 The defendant was subsequently tried and convicted in circuit court on two counts of taking, obtaining, or withholding a credit card in violation of Code § 18.2-192.

On June 20, 1989, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss in the trial court, alleging that "[t]hese indictments are violative of the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution since he has previously been convicted of the lesser included offense petit larceny involving these items. (Warrant of arrest is attached)." Filed with the motion was a legal memorandum in support thereof. The court took the motion under advisement and, after the trial, heard argument on the motion on August 9, 1989. No reference was made to Grady because it

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was not decided until May 29, 1990. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court overruled the motion to dismiss, holding that petit larceny is not a lesser included offense of credit card theft and that the elements of the two are different.

At the outset, the Commonwealth contends that Darnell can not rely on the argument that his conviction is barred by Grady v. Corbin, 495 U.S. 508, 110 S.Ct. 2084, 109 L.Ed.2d 548 (1990) because he did not make this argument[12 Va.App. 952] in the trial court. In the trial court, the defendant relied solely upon Blockburger to argue that the double jeopardy clause was violated. Therefore, the Commonwealth argues, since the Corbin case was not the basis for the argument in the trial court, it should not be considered on appeal. Rule 5A:18. We disagree.

We find that Grady, although decided after the decision was rendered in the trial court, is applicable to this case. In Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U.S. 314, 107 S.Ct. 708, 93 L.Ed.2d 649 (1987), the United States Supreme Court held: "[A] new rule for the conduct of criminal prosecutions is to be applied retroactively to all cases, state or federal, pending on direct review or not yet final, with no exception for cases in which the new rule constitutes a 'clear break' with the past." Id. at 328, 107 S.Ct. at 716; see also Kelly v. Commonwealth, 8 Va.App. 359, 367-68, 382 S.E.2d 270, 274-75 (1989). As a general rule, judicial decisions are to be applied retroactively. Dept. of Highways v. Williams, 1 Va.App. 349, 352, 338 S.E.2d 660, 662-63 (1986).

"Rule 5A:18 serves an important function during the conduct of a trial. It places the parties on notice that they must give the trial court the first opportunity to rule on disputed evidentiary and procedural questions. The purpose of this rule is to allow correction of an error if possible during trial, thereby avoiding the necessity of mistrials and reversals." Gardner v. Commonwealth, 3 Va.App. 418, 423, 350 S.E.2d 229, 232 (1986). The defendant complied with Rule 5A:18 by making a motion to dismiss based on the double jeopardy clause, by filing a legal memorandum with the motion, and by fully arguing the motion before the trial court. He could not have argued Grady because it had not been decided.

In order to be considered on appeal, an objection must be timely made and the grounds stated with specificity. Rule 5A:18. "Unless an objection is stated with reasonable certainty at the time of the ruling, neither the Supreme Court nor the Court of Appeals will consider the question for the first time on appeal." Simmons v. Commonwealth, 6 Va.App. 445, 450, 371 S.E.2d 7, 10 (1988). The purpose of the rule is "to give the trial court an opportunity to rule intelligently and to avoid unnecessary appeals, reversals, and mistrials." Marshall v. Goughnour, 221 Va. 265, 269, 269 S.E.2d 801, 804 (1980).

"It is the duty of a party, as a rule, when he objects to evidence, to state the grounds of his objection, so that the trial [12 Va.App. 953] judge may understand the precise question or questions he is called upon to decide. The judge is not required to search for objections which counsel have not discovered, or which they are not willing to disclose." Jackson v. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co., 179 Va. 642, 651, 20 S.E.2d 489, 492-93 (1942). Although objections must be specific and not general, in this case we find that the objection was made with sufficient certainty so that the trial judge could understand the precise question he was called upon to decide. Darnell attached to his motion both his petit larceny warrant of arrest and the indictments upon which he was charged. In his attached memorandum, he cited applicable cases, referring to the leading case of Blockburger. However, in circumstances such as this, it is impossible to refer to cases not yet decided and to law promulgated between trial and appeal. We, therefore, find that Rule 5A:18 does not bar an appeal of an issue where the law has changed between trial and appeal, such as in this case. 2 To hold

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otherwise would deny the defendant the benefit of decisions rendered after the date of trial, decisions which the Supreme Court has declared have retroactive effect in all cases still pending on direct review.

The double jeopardy clause embodies three protections: "It protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after...

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