Friday, November 03, 2006

Got Klepto problems?

If you are thinking of doing something illegal, we should all make sure to use the correct terms. Now that we are adults, we don't say 'I need to go potty', but we use the adult words. (Well... I do at least.) Let's review the adult words for common crimes.

Did you know that there is a difference between robbery and burglary? If you didn't, you need to stop watching cartoons and check out prime time TV. (Seriously) Robbery means the unlawful taking (or attempted taking) of property that is in the immediate possession of another, either by force or threat of force. So if I threaten to punch you in the adams apple if you don't give me your dump truck, this would be robbery. Although many robberies do not result in physical harm to the victim or extensive loss, fully 1 in 3 involve actual injury, ranging from bruises and black eyes to life-threatening gunshot or knife wounds.

On the other hand, burglary is the unlawful entry of any structure, vessel with or without force, with the intent to commit a larceny. So you see? Robbery is in the taking something while it is in the possession of someone else, whereas burglary is the unlawful entry with the intent to commit larceny.

So what is larceny? Larceny is the unlawful taking (or attempted taking) of property other than a motor vehicle (motor vehicle theft is a separate category) from the possession of another, by stealth, with intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Does that clear it up? Pretty muc, burglary is more for cowards who like to be sneaky and robbery is for people with weapons and guts. There must be a taking from the possession, actual or implied, of the owner; hence if a man should find goods and appropriate them to his own use, he is not a thief on this account.

So where does the word 'Theft' fit into this? Well, actually theft is a pretty generic word. It is the illegal taking of someone else's property without that person's freely-given consent. As a term, it is used as shorthand for all major crimes against property, encompassing offences such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, trespassing, shoplifting, intrusion, fraud (theft by deception) and sometimes criminal conversion.

Did you know that you can steal your own property? It’s true I just got out of the Klink for it, actually. No one told me I didn’t have to press charges. Believe me, it was weird being a witness for the prosecution and the defense. One can only "steal" one's own property when another has a better right to possession at the relevant time. Larceny is a crime of possession, not ownership. For example, if a vehicle is under the possession of a mechanic, and the owner takes the vehicle, he could be guilty of larceny. (This is known as the mechanic's lien.)

Larceny itself is broken into two categories. Grand larceny is typically defined as larceny of a significant amount of property. In the U.S., it is often defined as an amount valued at $200 or more. Grand larceny is often classified as a felony with the possibility of a harsher sentence. If something is larceny, but not grand larceny, then it is called Petty Larceny. In others words, the state wants you to quit your sniveling and let it go.

What about embezzling? Is embezzling larceny? Nope. Embezzlement is it’s own special kind of theft. It is the wrongful or willful taking of money or property belonging to someone else after the money or property has lawfully come into the possession or control of the person taking it. In other words, it’s a special kind of theft where you steal something that someone has entrusted to you. If one rents a car with intent to return, then decides to keep it, then there is no larceny, but embezzling since the car was rightly in your possession.

What other words are there? How about commandeer, plunder, and pillage? These are all pretty closely related, actually. Plunder means to seize something for military or ‘official’ purposes. Whereas pillage means to rob of goods by force, especially in time of war. Commandeer means to take something owned by someone else for the benefit of the state. In other words, if YOU steal you are going to jail. If the GOVERNMENT steals from you (and they do) then it’s okay.

Aren’t you glad we had this talk?

**I got most of my info from the Department of Justice website, so if something is wrong, let me know and I will sue them.**

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