Topolewski v. State

The Facts

Defendant charged with stealing three barrels of meat from the Plankinton Packing Company.  Defendant was accused of aiding in the theft of the meat.  Dolan, who owed defendant money, agreed to the plan of theft in order to service the debt.  Dolan told the meat company about the plan.  The meat company asked Dolan to go through with the plan and catch defendant in the act.  Defendant placed meat barrels in a shipping car in commission of the act.  When confronted he explained that he had purchased the meat from Dolan.


“Where the owner of property by himself or his agent, actually or constructively, aids in the commission of the offense, as intended by the wrongdoer, by performing or rendering unnecessary some act in the transaction essential to the offense, the would-be criminal is not guilty of all the elements of the offense.”


When the accused is helped in the commission of the crime of theft by an owner of the property, can the accused be convicted?

The Holding/Reasoning

No, not when there is no trespass.  Reversed, remanded. Here the owner of the property helped packed the vehicle.  In allowing the defendant to come into contact with the property by ordering it placed on the truck he exceeded any element of trespass, which is an essential element to the crime of theft.  There can be no larceny without trespass.  He effectively delivered the property into the possession of the defendant.  If Dolan had simply provided the accused with a better opportunity to steal the meat, rather than actively transfer the property, theft would likely be upheld.  Dolan’s instruction to his worked that the meat be loaded had the effect of “consenting” to theft.

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