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. Saylor, 618 P.2d 1166 (Kan. 1980).
This case addresses the following issue:
What is needed to convict an individual of theft by deception?
This case explored the issue of what was needed to convict an individual of theft by deception. In exploring this issue, the court held that, “In order to convict a defendant of theft by deception, the state must prove that the defendant with the required intent obtained control over another’s property by means of a false statement of representation. To do so, the state must prove that the victim was actually deceived and relied in whole or in part upon the false representation.” Id. at 1168.
In this case, a K-Mart store security officer observed the defendant as he made numerous trips through the store placing items in his shopping cart. Id. at 1167. The defendant would go to the hardware department with items in the cart but would leave the department with an empty cart. Id. at 1168. Additionally, the security officer observed the defendant take a bottle of glue to the hardware store, use it, and then return it to a counter. Id. Later on, the defendant made a small purchase and left the store. Id. After the defendant left the store, the security officer and her supervisor investigated the hardware department. Id. Upon investigation, the two found a cardboard box housing a $13.97 plastic pig toy chest which normally was located in the toy department. Id. The cover of the box had been recently resealed with glue. Id. Nevertheless, the security officer did not touch the box and the defendant came back to the store later that evening. Id. Upon arrival, the defendant went back to the hardware department, retrieved the box, and headed to the cashier. Id. Since the cashier did not expect anything was wrong, the defendant paid for the toy chest at the counter and went on his way. Id. However, the security officer was waiting outside the store and arrested the defendant. Id. Once arrested, the toy chest was opened and found inside were several chain saws, metal rules, cigarettes, heavy duty staple guns, and record albums, with a total value in excess of $500. Id. As a result, the defendant was convicted of theft by deception and appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Kansas. Id.
On appeal, the court first examined the Kansas statute on theft by deception. Id. According to the statute, “In order to convict a defendant of theft by deception, the state must prove that the defendant with the required intent obtained control over another’s property by means of a false statement of representation. To do so, the state must prove that the victim was actually deceived and relied in whole or in part upon the false representation.” Id. In this case, the court determined that the K-Mart checkout cashier was the victim and she was completely unaware of the true contents hidden in the box. Id. at 1168-69. Furthermore, in determining that the evidence warranted a theft by deception conviction, the court noted that the act of deception and false representation did not actually occur until the defendant deceived the cashier into believing that the box contained a toy chest. Id. at 1169. Therefore, the court concluded that the trial court did not err when convicting the defendant of theft by deception. Id.
In conclusion, theft by deception requires that the defendant obtain control over another’s property by means of a false statement or representation. Id.