Appeals Court (August 17, 2007)

An individual's signature on a stolen motor vehicle report constitutes a "written statement" as required under G.L. c. 268, § 39, even though the police officer completed the remaining sections of the report.

In the middle of the night, the defendant gave an acquaintance, Matthew Jones, permission to use her car to bring another individual home. While en route to the friend's home, Jones crashed the car into a tree. When confronted by police, the defendant denied giving Jones permission to use the car. Following up on the defendant's statement that the car was stolen, the officer went to the defendant's home and collected all of the relevant information orally from the defendant. The officer then reviewed a blank stolen motor vehicle report with the defendant and the defendant signed the form. The officer then went back to the police station and filed in the remainder of the form based on the statements the defendant had just given him. After further investigation by the police, the defendant was charged with knowingly filing a false stolen motor vehicle report under G.L. c. 268, § 39.

During the defendant's trial before a judge, at the close of the Commonwealth's case, the defendant moved for a required finding of not guilty arguing that, because she had signed a blank form and the officer filled in the remaining sections based on her "oral" statements, the Commonwealth did not meet the "written statement" requirement of the statute.

General Laws c. 268, § 39, states: "Whoever knowingly makes a false written statement on a form bearing notice that false statements made therein are punishable under the penalty of perjury, to a police officer, police department or the registry of motor vehicles alleging the theft or conversion of a motor vehicle, shall be punished…"

The judge denied the defendant's motion for a required finding of not guilty reasoning that what the officer had written down was agreed to by the defendant and therefore, the defendant had adopted the officer's statements as her own. The judge convicted the defendant of knowingly filing a false stolen motor vehicle report and the defendant appealed.

The appeals court affirmed the lower courts conviction reasoning that because the defendant reviewed the blank form, which included questions identifying the vehicle, and the city and town the vehicle was stolen from, with the officer and then signed her name under the penalties of perjury on the form, the form in its entirety met the "written statement" requirement of the statute regardless of who actually filled in the information on the form.