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People v. Robinson

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant was convicted of larceny when he helped his friends remove the wheels and tires from a car that his friends stole. The court of appeals reversed. The State appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A defendant is not guilty of larceny if the asportation of the property ceased before the defendant’s involvement.

    Facts.

    Police found a stolen car near the dealership from which the car had been taken the previous night. The car was missing its wheels and tires. Hurley Robinson (Defendant) was arrested after the police found his fingerprints on the car. Defendant said that he had not stolen the car but, despite knowing his friends had stolen the car the night before, had helped to remove the wheels and tires. Defendant was accused of stealing the wheels and tires and was indicted for larceny in the third degree. According to New York’s criminal law, a defendant commits larceny when, with the intent to deprive another of property, the defendant wrongfully takes or withholds property from the rightful owner. At trial, the state did not present any evidence tending to show that Defendant had participated in the car theft. The jury found Defendant guilty. The appellate division reversed the conviction, concluding that while Defendant might have been guilty of criminal possession of stolen property, the evidence presented did not establish the commission of a larceny. The appellate division held that the larceny of the car, including the wheels and tires, was complete when Defendant’s friends took control of the car from the dealership. The State appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether a defendant is guilty of larceny if the asportation of the property ceased before the defendant’s involvement.

    Held.

    No. The court of appeals’ ruling is affirmed. A defendant is not guilty of larceny if the asportation of the property ceased before the defendant’s involvement.

    Dissent.

    (Meyer, J.): The majority and appellate division have inappropriately understood the relevant theft in this case to be of the car itself and not of the wheels and tires. If the original thieves intended only to steal the wheels and tires and not the whole car, then the point at which the asportation of the whole car was complete is not dispositive of the issue of Defendant’s larceny. A trier of fact could infer that Defendant’s friends intended to take only the wheels and tires, as evidenced by the fact that Defendant was asked to remove only the wheels and tires while the rest of the car was left behind. Defendant was charged only with the larceny of the tires and wheels. Therefore, the appellate court’s order should be reversed and the case remanded.

    Discussion.

    A person will be guilty of a larceny only if the person is involved in the crime before the carrying away of the property has ended. When a larceny involves a trespassory taking, a person is still liable for the crime even when the carrying away of the property, or asportation, is intercepted before completion. For example, a shoplifter who takes control of goods in such a way as to interfere with another’s right of ownership can be guilty of larceny even if the shoplifter is caught before exiting the store. Similarly, a person who comes upon a larceny that is already in progress and then decides to help complete the crime may be found guilty as an accomplice. In both cases, however, in order for liability to attach, the person must be involved before the asportation has ceased. Here, the asportation of the car, together with the wheels and tires, ceased before Defendant’s involvement. Defendant only first became involved on the day after the theft of the car. There was no pursuit of Defendant’s friends as they were stealing the car, and Defendant’s removal of the wheels and tires occurred at a separate location from the initial place of theft. Therefore, the appellate division’s holding that Defendant is not guilty of larceny because the asportation of the car was over before Defendant became involved was correct.


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