State v. Gipson

The Facts

The waitress of the restaurant presented the bill when the defendant finished dining. He informed the waitress that he was unable to pay the bill and wrote his address and telephone number upon the bill.  Before leaving the premises he stating that he would return to pay. The manager of the restaurant immediately telephoned police, who apprehended the defendant.

Procedural History

The Supreme Court of the State of Tennessee reversed the judgments of the appellate and the initial trial courts convicting the defendant of petit larceny, and remanded the case by directing the trial court to enter a judgment of not guilty.


The character and nature of the crime depend upon the state of mind of the person. The intention of the owner not to part with his property when relinquishing possession is the essence of the offense of larceny. The correct distinction seems to be that if by means of any trick, fraud, or artifice the owner of property is induced to part with the possession only, still meaning to retain the right of property, the taking by such means, where the requisite felonious intent is present at the time, will amount to larceny. However, if the owner parts with not only the possession of the goods but the right of property in them also, the offense of the party obtaining them will not be larceny, but the crime of obtaining goods by false pretenses.

The Issue

Whether the evidence did support defendant’s larceny conviction.

The Holding/Reasoning

The Supreme Court of the State of Tennessee defined the distinction between larceny and obtaining property of another by false pretenses in following way: “The distinction between the crimes of obtaining by false pretenses and larceny lies in the intention with which the owner parts with the property; if the owner, in parting with the property, intends to invest the accused with the title as well as the possession, the latter has committed the crime of obtaining the property by false pretenses, provided the means by which it is acquired are such as in law are false pretenses, but if the intention of the owner is to invest the accused with the mere possession of the property, and the latter, with the requisite intent, receives it and converts it to his own use, the crime is larceny.”

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