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False Name on Summons Was ‘Uttering’

Deborah Elkins//February 9, 2015

False Name on Summons Was ‘Uttering’

Deborah Elkins//February 9, 2015

A defendant who signed three summonses with a false name can be convicted of three counts of uttering a public record in violation of Va. Code § 18.2-168, says the Court of Appeals; defendant, through his actions, asserted that his false signatures on the summonses were good and valid and these actions were sufficient to prove uttering.

Based on a traffic stop on Nov. 8, 2012, for speeding, an Augusta County deputy issued three summonses to defendant for speeding, driving without an operator’s license and failure to wear a seatbelt. Defendant signed the summonses as “Christopher Venable” and returned them to the deputy. Over a month later, the deputy learned defendant’s true identity. Defendant had represented himself as Christopher Venable during a separate encounter with a Waynesboro police officer, who informed the Augusta County deputy of defendant’s actual name.

On appeal, defendant argues that an uttering occurs only when the act was made in the prosecution of the purpose of obtaining the object mentioned in the said writing.

The Supreme Court of Virginia considered the definition of “uttering” in Bateman v. Commonwealth, 205 Va. 595 (1964), and defined an uttering as “an assertion by word or action that a writing known to be forged is good and valid.”

We decline to hold, as defendant suggests, that an uttering occurs only when the action is done in pursuit of a purpose specifically mentioned in the forged writing. Based on the court’s de novo review of the statute, we hold that in order to sustain the convictions for uttering under Code § 18.2-168, the commonwealth was required to prove that appellant knew that the writings were forged, yet asserted that they were “good and valid.”

Here, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the commonwealth, the record supports the reasonable conclusion that, through his actions, defendant asserted that his forged name was true and that the forged summonses were good and valid. The trial court finding was not plainly wrong and the convictions were supported by the evidence.

We hold that the definition of uttering is “an assertion by word or action that a writing known to be forged is good and valid.” Under this definition, the evidence was sufficient for the trial court to conclude that defendant uttered the summonses.

We affirm the convictions for uttering a public record.

Goodwin v. Commonwealth (Decker) No. 0190-14-3, Feb. 3, 2015; Augusta County Cir.Ct. (Peatross) Duane Barron, DPD, for appellant; Virginia B. Theisen, Sr. AAG, for appellee. VLW 015-7-023, 9 pp.

VLW 015-7-023

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