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People v. Reid

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellants were convicted of armed robbery despite evidence that Appellants were attempting to recover money owed to them.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A claim of right defense is not available in robbery cases to negate intent where the defendant uses force to recover cash allegedly owed him.

    Facts. Appellants Reid and Riddles were convicted of armed robbery. Evidence at trial showed they were trying to recover money owed to them. The trial court credited the testimony of Appellants wherein it was claimed that they had taken the money to satisfy a debt. However, the trial court denied Appellants the defense of claim of right because force was used.

    Issue. Does a claim of right negate intent to commit robbery by a defendant who uses force to recover cash allegedly owed him?

    Held. No. Convictions affirmed.
    Defendants’ request to assert a claim of right defense was properly denied. The larceny statute provides that an assertion that “property was appropriated under a claim of right made in good faith” is a defense to larceny.

    Since a good-faith claim of right is a defense to larceny, and because robbery is defined as forcible larceny, defendants contend that claim of right is also a defense to robbery.

    However, the appellate division has held that a claim of right is not a defense to robbery based on an interpretation of the applicable statutes and a policy decision to discourage self-help. Furthermore, the defense of claim of right does not apply to all forms of larceny. For example, the law does not authorize a claim of right defense to extortion.

    By failing to incorporate this defense into the statute governing robbery, the legislature recognized that an accused should not be permitted to invoke the defense in crimes involving force. Robbery involves forcible conduct with the risk of physical injury to individuals.


    Discussion. The Court does not decide the different question of whether the owner of specific chattel who uses force to recover the property may be convicted of robbery.


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