Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Criminal Law: Larceny Question

The following question was asked in the comments of a post on the blog:

If someone decides to steal something, (i.e a purse in a store, a friend's wallet fallen out of her purse,) picks it up, conceals it in her own belongings, carries it a short distance, but then changes her mind and puts the item back roughly where she found it, is that larcency?


First, the elements of larceny are: A taking/and carrying away/of tangible personal property/of another/by trespass/with intent to permanently deprive the person of his/her interest in the property.

What we have here is a taking, and carrying away (the short distance is absolutely enough, even a few steps would be enough), of tangible personal property (wallet, purse, etc), of another, by trespass (permission was not given to take the item), with intent to permanently deprive (at the time the person took the item, the person intended to keep it). We are told that the person changes her mind, a fact that is irrelevant if at the time that the person took the item, she intended to permanently deprive the other of his property, and then later decided to bring it back. Larceny would still result.

But, if, on the other hand, the person had taken the purse only to look through it, and then immediately return it to the owner, there could be no larceny, as the intent to permanently deprive would be lacking.

Also note, that if A takes an item from B (with the knowledge that A is not rightfully in possession of the property) intends to return it, and then later changes her mind and decides to keep it, though there can be no larceny (there was no intent to permanently deprive at the time the item was taken,) you should analyze it under a "continuing trespass" situation.

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