People v. Brown

The Facts

Defendant and two other men sought to steal pop bottles.  After seeing cases of pop bottles outside a store in an alley, defendant and the other men discussed stealing them.  Once they returned to the alley, the two men decided not to go through with the theft, although defendant had repeatedly asked the other men to pass him the cases.  All eventually left the alley without stealing.

Procedural History

Convicted at trial.  Appeals on the grounds that his acts did not constitute a “substantial step” toward the crime.

The Issue

Whether asking others to engage in theft, but eventually abandoning constitutes a “substantial step” toward theft.

The Holding/Reasoning

No, conviction overturned.  It is not necessary that the last step before the commission of the crime have occurred in order to constitute a “substantial step.”  The court must answer, considering each case’s unique facts, “whether defendant performed acts bringing him in dangerous proximity to success in carrying out his intent.”  While defendant did climb the enclosure and look at its contents and request others to help him remove them, he was not within “dangerous proximity” to committing the crime.  His presence in an improper place and his intent to steal were demonstrated, but that is enough.  “To prove a defendant guilty of attempt, the State must prove that a defendant made a direct movement toward the commission of his intended crime after preparations for the commission of that crime were complete.”  Defendant did not have the tools or help needed to complete the theft.  He could not have completed the crime alone and walked aware.  He had neither the tools, nor the assistance needed and therefore was not in dangerous proximity of committing the crime.

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