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Bell v. State

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant dug up potatoes and severed cabbage heads from another’s property. Defendant then took the vegetables from the property. After being convicted of larceny, Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court’s definition of larceny was wrong.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Larceny is defined as the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal property of another with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of that personal property.

    Facts.

    Bell (Defendant) went onto White’s property and dug up sweet potatoes. Defendant also severed some cabbage heads from the ground. Subsequently, Defendant took the sweet potatoes and cabbages from White’s property. As a result, Defendant was charged with petit larceny for stealing the sweet potatoes and cabbages. After Defendant was convicted for petit larceny, Defendant appealed. Defendant argued that the trial court’s definition of larceny that it presented to the jury was error.

    Issue.

    Does severing another’s personal property from a person’s land and taking that property away in one continuous act establish a defendant’s guilt for larceny?

    Held.

    No. Severing another’s personal property from a person’s land and taking that property away in one continuous act does not constitute larceny. Larceny is defined as the wrongful taking and carrying away of personal property of another with the intent of permanently depriving that person of the personal property. In this case, the key distinction is the fact that was Defendant’s continuous act of severance and asportation. Because the severance and asportation was one continuous act, Defendant cannot be guilty of larceny. As such, Defendant’s larceny conviction is reversed.

    Discussion.

    The personal property at issue in this case is vegetables growing in or upon White’s land. Larceny occurs when the severance of the vegetables from White’s land is a distinct act from the asportation of the vegetables. When the severance and asportation of the vegetables are one continuous act, a defendant is guilty of trespass rather than larceny. Therefore, Defendant’s continuous act of severance and asportation does not fall under the definition of larceny and thus, Defendant should not have been convicted of larceny.


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