Santa Claus' letters are safe, for now

June 9, 2011
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An interesting footnote in an Indiana Court of Appeals opinion on a counterfeit case makes reference to letters from Santa Claus.

Patrick Trainor got a ticket for making an illegal U-turn and decided he should “prank” the ticketing officer by ordering items under the officer’s name and sending them to the officer’s house. The officer refused the items and discovered many other items Trainor ordered using the officer’s name. If the officer hadn’t caught it, he could have had his credit ruined as some outstanding bills had been turned over to collections.

In the opinion, Trainor argued that he hadn’t committed counterfeiting as defined by Indiana Code 35-43-5-2. He claimed the order forms he filled out in the officer’s name weren’t “written instruments” as defined by the counterfeiting statute because they “have no value, they create no privilege, and they aren’t objects of identification.”

The appellate court rejected Trainor’s arguments and upheld his convictions and sentence.

As I read the opinion, the footnote to a sentence made me chuckle.

“The order forms undoubtedly constitute papers, documents, or other instruments containing written matter, and thus fall within the statutory definition of written instrument.” In a footnote to this sentence, Judge Paul Mathias wrote, “Our holding is limited to the facts and circumstances before us. We do not consider whether letters from Santa Claus and the like constitute prosecutable crimes.”

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