DOES THE PROPERTY NEED TO BE CARRIED AWAY OR TAKEN SOME MEASURABLE DISTANCE TO BE CONSIDERED THEFT?
Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Plummer, 251 P.3d 102 (Kan. Ct. App. 2011).
This case addresses the following issue:
Does the property need to be carried away or taken some measurable distance to be considered theft?
This case explored the issue of whether property needed to be carried away or taken some measurable distance to be considered theft. In exploring this issue, the court held that theft did not require the defendant to move the property to complete the offense. Id. at 107.
In this case, the defendant entered a Target and immediately attracted the attention of the security guards because he seemed fidgety. Id. at 105. Over the course of two hours, the defendant walked throughout the store under the observation of several security cameras. Id. Initially, the defendant picked up a pair of sunglasses and put them in his pocket. Id. Later on, the defendant took a backpack, removed the paper packaging from inside, and began to fill it with a variety of Target merchandise. Id. Additionally, the defendant took a Target knife to cut the packaging from a shaver that he put in the backpack. Id. Eventually, the defendant pushed a shopping cart with the backpack in it toward the store exit. Id. After grabbing the backpack and moving past the registers, the defendant entered a set of double doors leading outside. Id. At the same time, a Target security guard pursued the defendant and grabbed his arm and told him to stop. Id. The defendant then punched the security guard and the two began to quarrel until police arrived on the scene. Id. After searching the defendant, the police discovered over $300 worth of Target merchandise from his pockets and backpack. Id. At trial, the defendant requested that the court instruct the jury on theft and robbery as lesser offenses. Id. However, the judge declined to give an instruction for theft and the jury found the defendant guilty of aggravated robbery. Id. The defendant appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals of Kansas. Id.
In addressing the defendant’s argument, the court noted that the crime of theft did not require the defendant to move the property to complete the offense. Id. at 107. Furthermore, the court determined that theft was completed once the defendant exercised dominion or control over the property. Id. According to the court, the property did not need to be carried away or taken some measurable distance. Id. In making these statements, the court cited a Supreme Court of Kansas case which held, “Where a customer in a self-service store conceals on his person . . . property of the store and has the requisite specific criminal intent, that customer has committed a theft.” Id. In other words, no matter how far away an individual takes the property from the owner, if the individual has the intent to exercise dominion over the property, a theft has occurred. Id.
In conclusion, the property does not need to be carried away or taken some measurable distance to be considered theft. Id.