Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Appellant signed an operating agreement with Priefert Manufacturing Co., Inc. to sell Priefert's farm and ranch equipment on consignment. Appellant agreed to sell this equipment at his retail store in Stephenville, located in Erath County. Priefert delivered its equipment to appellant's retail store from its headquarters in Mount Pleasant, Titus County. Appellant picked up inventory at Priefert's headquarters on several occasions and traveled back to his store. After making sales at his store, appellant reported them daily to Priefert's headquarters. Priefert then sent invoices to appellant for the wholesale price of the equipment that had been sold and the cost of the freight. After the businesses operated under the agreement for over two years, the relationship dissolved by early 2003, when appellant closed his store and admitted to using proceeds from the equipment sales to pay other financial obligations. Priefert filed civil and criminal complaints against appellant in Titus County to recover the unpaid invoices. Appellant filed for bankruptcy and discharged his civil liability. The criminal case, however, proceeded to trial. Appellant was indicted in Titus County for the offense of hindering a secured creditor by misappropriating the proceeds of secured property. The indictment alleged that venue lay in Titus County based on appellant's "sell[ing] or dispos[ing] of secured property" there. The undisputed facts at trial, however, showed that appellant sold property in Erath County. Appellant repeatedly challenged venue on the ground that he had not disposed of any property in Titus County, as the State had alleged in the indictment. On this basis, he filed a pretrial motion to quash, requested a directed verdict after the State rested its case-in-chief, and requested a jury instruction on the special venue provisions in Article 13.09. The trial court denied these requests. The jury convicted appellant of hindering a secured creditor and recommended community supervision. Appellant thereafter appealed. The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that venue error at trial is subject to a review for harm by using the standard for non-constitutional errors described in Rule 44.2(b) of the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure. Applying that standard to this case, the Court concluded that the State's failure to prove venue as alleged was harmless because the record failed to show that appellant's substantial rights were affected by the venue of his trial, which occurred at one of the places permitted under Article 13.09 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the specialized venue statute applicable to this case. View "Schmutz v. Texas" on Justia Law