Theft And Similar Crimes

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Theft And Similar Crimes

Trial Lawyer

Thievery is a crime that has existed since the dawn of time. What started out as stealing a loaf of bread, has now turned into taking a woman’s purse, and even robbing a bank. Fortunately, because thievery has been a crime for so long, the common law and model penal code has laid out what exactly is each type of theft. Simply put, thievery can be broken down into five (5) distinct crimes: (1) theft; (2) theft from person; (3) robbery; (4) armed robbery; and (5) embezzlement. Notably, theft to armed robbery all add one more element to the crime and build off of one another. The following is a brief overview of theft crimes from a trial lawyer from Eglet Adams.

What Is Theft?

Deceptively simple, theft has four (4) elements – (1) intentionally take personal property of another; (2) intentionally carry away that property; (3) without the owner’s consent; and (4) with an intent to steal.  As you probably noticed, intent is required in three of the four elements – the alleged thief must intentionally take the property, carry it away, and do so intending to take property knowing that it did not belong to him or her and that it would permanently deprive the owner of that property. For example, if a man is walking by a restaurant, sees a purse left unattended, knowing that it does not belong to him and decides to walk away with it, that is a theft. 

Theft from person encompasses the same elements of theft, but adds one additional element, the property taken must be within the immediate control of the theft from person victim. Sticking with the same example as above, if the man had taken the purse form the woman’s table while she was sitting and having lunch with a friend, so long as that purse was within her reach, that would be a theft from person. 

Robbery takes theft from person one step farther. Robbery requires that the person (1) intentionally take and carry away property of another (2) within the owner’s immediate control, (3) without the owner’s consent, (4) knowing that they don’t have the owner’s consent, (5) with an intent to steal, (6) while either using or threatening force against a person with an intent to overcome resistance or compel acquiescence. Referring again to our purse example, had the thief punched the woman or stated, “I’ll hurt you if you don’t give me the bag,” that would suffice to meet the requisite burden to show that the thief committed the robbery with force. 

Armed robbery has the same initial six (6) elements as robbery, but further requires that the robbery occur by use or threat of use of a dangerous weapon, or any article used or fashioned in a manner to lead the victim to reasonably believe that it is a dangerous weapon. Thus, if our suspect robbed the woman at lunch with a gun or had a brown paper bag with his finger in it fashioned to appear as a gun and threatened to use it against her, that would suffice as an armed robbery. 

Embezzlement is wholly different from common theft and is very wide in scope.  Embezzlement occurs when (1) an individual, by virtue of his employment, (2) having possession of money or other negotiable security, (3) intentionally uses or transfers possession of such money or security, (4) without the consent of the owner, (5) contrary to his authority, (6) and with the intent to convert the money or security to his own or someone else’s use.  For example, if someone in the payroll department of your company started taking a portion of your paycheck and put it into their own, that would be embezzlement.  Or, on a larger scale, a hedge manager brings in a group of investors who think the manager is going to use their funds to invest in the market, but instead pockets that money and uses it for a vacation to Maui. Both would be embezzlement.