State v. Smith

The Facts

The defendant, Ralph Smith, who owned a company, received a check from the construction company by mistake and deposited it into his bank account. After waiting two weeks he used the money to pay business and personal debts through issuing 32 checks.

Procedural History

The Supreme Court of Mississippi reversed the circuit court’s judgment. The case was remanded to the circuit court to re-evaluate the factual issue of intent.


As per rule a person who innocently receives the money by mistake is not guilty of larceny if, after discovering the mistake, he/she spends it to his/her own use. The rule is not applicable when the money is received knowingly and with intent at the time of transfer to use for his/her own purposes.

According to Miss. Code Ann. § 97-17-41 (Revised 1994) ‘grand larceny’ should take place if a person takes and carries away, feloniously, the personal property of other person, of the value of $250.00 or more. An important part of the concept of ‘grand larceny’ is the specific intent to misappropriate the money without consent of the proprietor.

The Issue

Whether trial court’s dismissal of the grand larceny charges against defendant was devoid of merit.

The Holding/Reasoning

The Supreme Court of Mississippi reversed the circuit court’s order. It was particularly asserted that “a finding of intent could have been based upon the circumstances regardless of whether the required intent existed at the time of the taking.” According to the court the jury must pay due regard to a state of mind of the suspect. The court further stressed that a finding of intent in case of larceny is based on factual circumstances regardless of whether requisite intent existed at the time of the taking. Therefore, it was admitted that “the prosecution must prove the accused took and carried away, at any time, personal property belonging to another without the owner’s consent, under circumstances where the accused was not entitled to possession of the property.”

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