A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

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By Burt Rose

THE SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA has decided the matter of IN THE INTEREST OF A.V., A MINOR, Appellant, 1469 MDA 2011, 2012 PA Super 78. This was an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County Juvenile Division, CP-22-JV-0000500-2011. The case was before Judges STEVENS, PANELLA and MUNDY. PJ Stevens wrote the Opinion for the Panel.

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This juvenile defendant was found to be in possession of four $20 counterfeit bills and was adjudicated delinquent on the charge of possessing an instrument of crime. However, the Superior Court stressed that mere possession of an instrument of crime, standing alone, cannot support an inference that the defendant intended to use the instrument of crime for a criminal purpose.

There was no evidence in the record showing that the defendant attempted to place the counterfeit money in circulation or was in a position to do so. He explained that he found the money in his school’s bathroom and did not give the officers any indication that he intended to use the money for a criminal purpose. The fact that counterfeit money has no lawful use can support its classification as an instrument of crime but does not relieve the Commonwealth of its burden to prove an actor’s intent to use the counterfeit money for a criminal purpose beyond a reasonable doubt.

As a result, the Court found that there was insufficient evidence to show the defendant possessed the counterfeit bills with intent to employ it criminally.Therefore, the Court reversed the adjudication of delinquency and vacated the dispositional order entered in this matter.

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