Lund v. Commonwealth

The Facts

Defendant charged with using a computer without operation time and service of computer personnel at a state university.  Defendant was a graduate student whose professor failed to get him the proper university computer access, yet defendant used the computer despite this fact.  The computer used was leased from IBM, paid for by the university, which in turn charges each departments’ budget for their respective usage.  The unauthorized sum of defendant’s usage was around $30000.  $25K of this sum was of print out material, which the director of the computer said was really worth “whatever scrap paper is worth.”  Defendant argued that he used the computer “without specific authority.”  But because he was working on his dissertation, he didn’t believe his use to be excessive nor “that he was doing anything wrong.”  Four faculty members stated that computer time would have been granted if properly requested, as did the head of the computer department.

Procedural History

Found guilty at trial by grand jury. At trial defendant argued and appeals because (1) there is no evidence that the articles were stolen or that they had a value of more than $100 (2) computer time is not the subject of larceny under the relevant statute.

Relevant Statute

“If any person obtain, by any false pretense or token, from any person, with intent to defraud, money or other property which may be the subject of larceny, he shall be deemed guilty of larceny thereof…”

The Issue

Whether the taking of computer time the subject of the crime of larceny.

The Holding/Rule

Labor or services at common law cannot be the subject of grand larceny.  The stolen item must be able to be taken and carried.  Computer services do not fit such a description.  In common law, larceny is the taking and carrying away of the “goods and chattels of another with intent to deprive the owner of the possession permanently.”  In the relevant statute, the word “use” is not specifically provided.  Courts have held that unless specifically mentioned by the legislature, use shall not be part of the larceny crime.  Moreover, the print outs could not be valued by the presented evidence.


Reverse and indictment quashed.

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