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Topolewski v. State

    Citation

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Topolewski (Defendant), made an arrangement with an employee of a meat packing company who owed him money to give him some meat products without paying for them in order to satisfy the debt between them. The employee agreed to the arrangement after informing the company’s representatives and receiving their instructions to feign cooperation. The Defendant was thereafter convicted of theft.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The crime of larceny cannot be committed when the owner of the property, by himself or an agent, actually or constructively aids in the commission of the theft, as intended by the wrongdoer, by performing an act necessary to the completion of the transaction.

    Facts. The Defendant made an arrangement with Dolan, an employee of a meat packing company, to place three barrels of the company’s meat on a loading platform. The Defendant would then load the barrels on his wagon and drive away as if he were a customer. Dolan owed the Defendant money and completion of this transaction was thought to satisfy the debt. Dolan agreed to the arrangement after informing the company’s representatives and receiving their instructions to feign cooperation. The Defendant took the barrels as planned and was thereafter convicted of theft.

    Issue. Can a larceny be committed if there is no trespass to property?

    Held. No. Judgment is reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial. Judge Marshall delivered the opinion of the court. This case revolves around the issue whether or not there was consent. The facts show the property was placed on the loading platform by an employee who possessed knowledge that the Defendant had intentions of taking the property without paying for it. Even though the employee did not place the property in the Defendant’s wagon, he stood by witnessing the incident and even assisted the Defendant in arranging the wagon. Therefore, his conduct amounted to delivery of the three barrels to the Defendant. If someone procures or delivers their property to be taken by another who intends to steal it, the element of trespass is lacking.

    Discussion. This type of situation is different than where a person sets a trap in order to catch someone who is suspected of intent to steal. However, the circumstances around the enticement cannot go further than to give the prospective thief the best opportunity to carry out his intention to steal. The element of trespass is not lacking where the owner of the property is removed from the completed transaction with regard to the issue of consent.


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