Ownership, Proof of


Franklin County Criminal Law Casebook

Reproduced with permission from:
Timothy E. Pierce and the Franklin County Public Defender Office

R.C. 2913.01(D) -- Owner defined as applicable to theft and fraud offenses.
R.C. 4505.04 -- Proof of ownership of motor vehicle.
State v. Rhodes (1982), 2 Ohio St. 3d 74 -- "In a prosecution for theft of a motor vehicle under R.C 2913.02, R.C. 4505.04 does not mandate that a certificate of title be produced by the prosecution to demonstrate that the person deprived of the motor vehicle is the 'owner' of the motor vehicle within the meaning of R.C. 2913.01(D)." Also see State v. Emmons (1978), 57 Ohio App. 2d 173, 177.
Smith v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. (1988), 37 Ohio St. 3d 150, 153 -- "...R.C. 4505.04 is irrelevant to all issues of ownership except those regarding the importation of vehicles, rights as between lien holders, rights of bona-fide purchasers, and instruments evidencing title and ownership. Otherwise, motor vehicle ownership rights will be determined by the Uniform Commercial Code." Also see Nolen v. Standard Oil Co. (1989), 63 Ohio App. 3d 746.
State v. Newell (1994), 93 Ohio App. 3d 609 -- In a case focusing on limitations placed by security guards on the defendant's privilege to be at a public housing project where his sister lived, court finds state failed to prove ownership of the specific portion of the property the defendant was said to have trespassed upon.
State v. Mann (1993), 93 Ohio App. 3d 301, 308-309 -- "A person has constructive possession of a thing or substance when he is able to exercise dominion or control over it...Ownership of the contraband need not be established. A person may indeed control or possess property belonging to another. The Supreme Court has held that knowledge of illegal goods on one's property is sufficient to show constructive possession...Where the defendant neither owns, leases nor occupies the premises, his mere presence in an apartment in which drugs and criminal tools are found is insufficient evidence of his possession of the contraband..."
State v. Montes (1993), 92 Ohio App. 3d 539, 553 -- Defendant was convicted of grand theft based on having obtained possession of a car impounded after the murder of its purchaser. Apparently transfer of title had not been completed prior to death. According to the court, it matters less who the legal owner was than that the defendant did not have any lawful right to possession.
State v. Howell (1994), 64 Ohio Misc. 2d 23 -- Dealer filed unauthorized use of a motor vehicle charges against a truck buyer who did not carry through with financing and failed to return the truck upon demand. Court finds that the defendant had a legitimate claim to possession, though possibly inferior to that of the dealer, and that there was not probable charge for the case to go forward.
State v. Washington (1998), 126 Ohio App. 3d 264 -- Theft in office prosecution was premised on unauthorized use of a computer system which posted food stamp benefits on cards bearing a microchip which were issued to beneficiaries. It was not necessary to prove a lack of consent on the part of the cardholders as owners, as the ownership interest violated was established with respect to the central computer, whether or not the imbedded chips meant the cards by themselves qualified as a computer, system or network.

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Published by Timothy E. Pierce
Copyright © Franklin County Public Defender and Timothy E. Pierce, 2015
Contents may not be duplicated without express permission.