If someone steals an item of nominal value (e.g. less than $200.00) while it was sitting unattended on a table or counter, then they probably figure the worse that can happen if they are caught is a misdemeanor conviction with a fine, probation or a small amount of jail. However, if this theft occurred within a building structure in Michigan, then you can be charged with the FELONY crime of larceny in a building NO MATTER WHAT THE VALUE OF THE PROPERTY IS. Most people expect to have an additional comfort knowing that their items contained inside of a building are safely stored. When a person goes into a building and steals these items, it is considered more serious because of this heightened level of security and punished accordingly. This statute is intended to punish for crimes such as a housekeeper stealing from a dwelling, a student stealing from a school, a customer stealing from a store, or a patron stealing from an office building.
An individual is guilty of larceny in a building, contrary to MCL 750.360, if the prosecutor can prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (See Model Criminal Jury Instruction 23.4):
- First, that the defendant, took someone else’s property.
- Second, that the property was taken without consent.
- Third, that the property was taken in a ““dwelling house, house trailer, office, store, gasoline service station, shop, warehouse, mill, factory, hotel, school, barn, granary, ship, boat, vessel, church, house of worship, locker room or any building used by the public.”
- Fourth, that there was some movement of the property. It does not matter whether the defendant actually kept the property or whether the property was taken off the premises.
- Fifth, that the property was worth something at the time it was taken.
- Sixth, that at the time the property was taken, the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.
The penalty for larceny in a building is a felony conviction punishable by up to 4 years in state prison.
Larceny in a building does not require the prosecutor to prove the value of the items stolen. People v Bullock, 48 Mich App 700; 211 NW2d 108 (1973). An individual who steals a $1.00 package of gum from someone’s home can face the felony charge of larceny from a building. Even if the theft was ultimately unsuccessful, the act of concealing or even moving the property (no matter how slightly) with the intent to steal is enough to complete the crime. Freeman v Meijer, Inc, 95 Mich App 475, 478-479; 291 NW2d 87 (1980).
Larceny in a building can be charged even if the defendant was lawfully in the building at the time of the theft (e.g. in someone’s home as a guest with permission). It does not require showing that the defendant was breaking or entering into the building to commit a crime. This crime can be applied to virtually ANY building, not just a “dwelling” (required to charge the crime of burglary) or a store open to the public (required to charge the crime of retail fraud). The application of this offense is very broad.
If you are charged with larceny in a building, you need a skilled criminal defense lawyer in your corner to protect your rights. You may able to assert defenses at trial that can lead to an acquittal. For example, a person cannot commit a larceny if he or she can prove that the property taken was his or her own property. Likewise, a person cannot be convicted of larceny if they did not have the intent to steal (e.g. the item taken was accidentally placed in the defendant’s handbag or purse by someone else). Even if the evidence against you is strong, an attorney may be able to negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor instead of a felony. If applicable, a person under 24 years old convicted of larceny from a building may be able to avoid a criminal conviction by successfully completing the requirements of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“HYTA”).
If you or a loved one is charged with any crime or need legal representation, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.