People v. Rivera

The Facts

Defendant was accused of possession of a stolen vehicle.  Defendant was approached by an officer when he drove his car into an extended cable, where the car was then stuck but did not exit the parking lot.  When asked, defendant claimed he had the owner’s permission to move the car.  The officer asked if defendant was on the parking lot property.  When defendant replied he wasn’t, defendant was arrested.


Convicted at jury trial, sentenced to 3 years. Appellate court reversed, holding that he did not possess “exclusive control over the automobile,” which is required by statute.


Whether the crime of theft requires complete physical control by the accused such that the owner is completely severed from possession of the property.

Relevant Statute

Illinois Code: it is unlawful for one “not entitled to the possession of a vehicle … to receive, possess, … or transfer it, knowing it to have been stolen or converted.”


Yes.  Defendant took complete control and possession of the car by getting in it and moving it through the parking lot.  While defendant argues that the cable secured the car in a way a chain or string does to other protected item, the act of getting in the car and freely driving it constitutes dispossession of the owner.  The cable simply prevented defendant from driving away with the already dispossessed vehicle.  Because driving the car in the parking lot constitutes complete dominion and control of the vehicle and the owner is completely dispossessed of the item in the course of such an action, the defendant is guilty of theft.

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