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People v. Brown

Scott Caron

ProfessorScott Caron

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

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People v. Brown
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Brief Fact Summary. Appellant was convicted of larceny after he entered an acquaintance’s house and took a bicycle. Appellant claims he did not intend to keep the bicycle, and therefore, he is not guilty of larceny.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. In order to be found guilty of larceny, an accused must have intended to permanently deprive the owner of his property.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

While the felonious intent of the party taking need not necessarily be an intention to convert the property to his own use, still it must in all cases be an intent to wholly and permanently deprive the owner thereof.

View Full Point of Law
Facts. Appellant Brown was a seventeen-year-old boy convicted of larceny. He entered an acquaintance’s house and took a bicycle. Brown stated he took the property to get even with a boy for throwing oranges at him. He also testified he did not intend to keep the bicycle, but rather intended to take it back on a Sunday. The trial court instructed the jury that with regard to larceny, the taking must be made with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. In addition, the court told the jury that the taker did not have to intend to deprive the owner permanently. An example was given in which a man takes a horse (not with the intent to convert it to his permanent use), rides it to a certain distance, and then leaves it. The issue on appeal is whether the court’s instructions were erroneous.

Issue. Were the judge’s instructions erroneous when he told the jury an individual can be found guilty of larceny if he intends to temporarily deprive the owner of his property?

Held. Yes. The order is reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial.
If the boy’s story is true, then he is not guilty of larceny for taking the bicycle. However, under the court’s instruction, his very testimony convicted him. The court told the jury that larceny can be committed where a party’s intention was to temporarily deprive the owner of his property. The instruction concerning the man taking the horse is too broad in its terms as stating a correct principle of law.

Whether this fictitious person is guilty of larceny is a question of fact for the jury. If an individual does not intend to permanently deprive an owner of his property, his acts constitute a trespass. We think past authorities have established the bright line rule that an accused must have intended to permanently deprive the owner of his property in order to sustain a conviction for larceny.


Discussion. The felonious intent of the party accused of larceny must be to permanently deprive the owner of his property, but there does not need to be an intention to convert the property to his own use.


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