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Brooks v. State

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff in error, George Brooks (Plaintiff), was convicted in the lower court of larceny in stealing $200 in bank bills that were previously the property of Charles B. Newton (Newton).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. If lost property has not been abandoned by the owner, it is the subject of larceny by the finder, when, at the time he finds it, he has reasonable ground to believe, from the nature of the property, or the circumstances under which it was found, that if he does not conceal, but deals honestly with it, the owner will appear or be ascertained. However, before the finder can be guilty of larceny, the intent to steal the property must have existed at the time he took it into possession.

    Facts. On October 24, 1878, Newton came into the City of Warren in his buggy to transact business. He tied his horse to a post on Market Street. On his way home, Newton noticed that he had lost a package with $200 in bank bills inside. Newton conducted a search, but did not substantially look near the post in Warren where he had tied his horse. Newton also published a notice of the loss in three newspapers circulating in the area. Later, on November 20, the Plaintiff found the package while working as a laborer on Market Street. Plaintiff placed the money in his pocket upon its discovery and did not mention his find to the other laborers with whom he was working on that day. The evidence did not show that Plaintiff saw any of the newspaper notices or that he otherwise had any notice of Newton’s loss.

    Issue. Under what circumstances does lost property become the subject of larceny by the finder?

    Held. At the trial court, the case was properly submitted to the jury and the jury convicted the Plaintiff of larceny. Upon examination of the evidence, no ground for ordering a new trial was found. The Plaintiff’s actions can properly be said to have amounted to an intention to steal the property upon coming into contact with it.

    Dissent. The Plaintiff was not properly convicted. There was approximately one month between Newton’s loss and the Plaintiff’s find of the money. Further, the evidence did not show that Plaintiff had any notice of Newton’s loss.

    Discussion. The decision that was made in the lower court to submit the matter to the jury was not erroneous. There was evidence presented that the Plaintiff took steps to conceal his find, including the fact that he did not reveal the money to his co-workers and that he spent the money quickly. However, the time between the loss and finding by the Plaintiff, as well as a lack of evidence that Plaintiff knew of Newton’s loss make the question ripe for submission to the jury.


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