Chadwell v. State

The Facts

Defendant charged with breaking and entering and was convicted at trial of theft.  A bar owner saw defendant get out of a car, come into his bar, and return to his car with property owned by another man. Defendant attempted to get into his car, but bar owner apprehended him until police arrived.  Defendant had attempted to take a jacket, which had another man’s wallet, license, credit card, etc.  The wallet was later found in the parking lot.  Defendant contends that the felony theft charge should be reduced to a misdemeanor because there was not any proof that he knowingly took the wallet.

Relevant Statute:

Ark Code:  “One commits theft of property if he knowingly takes or exercises unauthorized control over the property of another person with the purpose of depriving the owner thereof.”  Other statute holds that it is a misdemeanor where the value of the property stolen is below $200, but where a credit card is stolen, the crime is automatically a C felony.

The Issue

Can conviction be sustained where defendant steals a particular item intentionally, but does not knowing steal the contents held within?

The Holding/Rule

Yes.  The code does not mandate that the thief know the value “or the true character” of the property which he is stealing.  Where an item can contain other things inside, the thief is responsible for knowingly taking that item and is responsible for its contents.  His knowledge of the particular item being stolen extends to the items held within.  “The unauthorized taking of the jacket, which contained the wallet and the credit card, was one act, and the party committing it is liable for all of the property thus taken by him.”

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