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Elements of crimes did not occur in Indiana

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered that charges be dropped against a pair living in Houston who faced counterfeiting and theft charges, finding the trial court lacked territorial jurisdiction.

The case of An-Hung Yao and Yu-Ting Lin v. State of Indiana, No. 35A02-1006-CR-678, came before the appellate court on interlocutory appeal. Yu-Ting Lin, who operates a business in Houston that imports airsoft toy guns from Taiwan and sells them, and An-Hung Yao, a bank vice president who helped set up business systems for Lin, challenged the Huntington Circuit Court’s decision to not dismiss theft and corrupt business influence charges against the pair.

The charges stemmed from the sale of a certain airsoft gun that allegedly resembled Heckler & Koch Inc.’s MP5 submachine gun. H&K hired Indiana-based Continental Enterprises to investigate possible trademark infringement claims. Continental placed several orders for the guns that were shipped to Indiana, and a company investigator visited Lin’s company in Houston.

Also on appeal, the state challenged the decision to grant Yao and Lin’s motions to dismiss counterfeiting charges.

Yao and Lin argued that the Indiana trial court did not have territorial jurisdiction over them. There have only been a small number of Indiana cases that address territorial jurisdiction, wrote Chief Judge Margret Robb, and all either held that there is no serious evidentiary dispute that Indiana has territorial jurisdiction or there is a serious evidentiary dispute requiring a jury determination.

“However, given that Indiana Code section 35-34-1-4(a)(10) provides that the trial court may dismiss an information if there is a jurisdictional impediment to the prosecution, we believe the converse of the rule announced in Ortiz (v. State, 766 N.E.2d 370, 374 (Ind. 2002)) is also true: if there is no serious evidentiary dispute that Indiana does not have territorial jurisdiction, the trial court may dismiss the information as a matter of law and the issue need not be submitted to the jury,” she wrote.

The judges concluded that the elements of the crimes Yao and Lin were charged with did not occur in Indiana. Citing United States v. Smith, 173 Fed. 227 (D. Ind. 1909), the appellate court concluded that between the two options – Yao and Lin committed a separate crime in every jurisdiction where they sent airsoft guns or they committed a crime only in the place where they actually possessed the guns – the second choice was more reasonable and comported with due process.

The COA remanded Thursday for the trial court to dismiss the remaining charges.

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