Case Dismissed – There was legally insufficient evidence to satisfy the requisite mens rea for Grand Larceny

In the People v. Drouin, 2016 NY Slip Op 06906 (App. Div. Third Department, October 20, 2016), the Court finds that there was legally insufficient evidence to satisfy the requisite mens rea element of larceny. The two basic elements of any crime are a criminal act accompanied by a criminal mind. This case is another example of why Mens Rea matters.

 The Court notes

We agree with defendant that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the verdict. Larcenous intent is the “intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person” (Penal Law § 155.05 [1]; see People v Medina, 18 NY3d 98, 103 [2011]). The terms “deprive” and “appropriate” are both essential to larcenous intent and refer to [*2]a purpose “to exert permanent or virtually permanent control over the property taken, or to cause permanent or virtually permanent loss to the owner of the possession and use thereof” (People v Medina, 18 NY3d at 105 [internal quotation marks, emphasis and citation omitted]). For this reason, “[t]he mens rea element of larceny is simply not satisfied by an intent to temporarily take property without the owner’s permission” (Matter of Shawn V., 4 AD3d 369, 370 [2004]; see People v Medina, 18 NY3d at 104; People v Jennings, 69 NY2d 103, 119 [1986]).[FN2] The proof introduced at trial supported the singular reasonable conclusion that defendant was executing a plan to temporarily deprive the tenant of the ATV in order to force him to return defendant’s missing tools;[FN3] defendant contemporaneously expressed this plan and, after storing the ATV at a friend’s property, made no effort to use or sell the ATV. The sole reasonable conclusion to reach from this evidence is that defendant planned to return the ATV in exchange for the tools. Although defendant clearly intended to benefit from the temporary possession of the property through securing the return of his tools, that is not an intent sufficient to support a conviction based upon larceny (see People v Jennings, 69 NY2d at 119; Van Vechten v American Eagle Fire Ins. Co., 239 NY 303, 305 [1925]; People v Cantoni, 140 AD3d 782, 784 [2016]).

Mens Rea matters – the court notes because there was legally insufficient evidence to satisfy the mental state requirement, Mens Rea, of the criminal offense, the Court reverses and dismisses the indictment. This matter is reached after a trial – the Third Department reverses the jury verdict as against the weight of the evidence. Unfortunately for the Defendant, as noted in Footnote # 1, the Defendant was deported during the pendency of this appeal.

This case highlights two important concepts: (1) collateral consequences are serious, here deportation; and (2) raising these issues at the outset, the lack of mens rea in this case, is vital to a proper criminal defense. If you or a loved one is charged with a crime, larceny, grand larceny, etc., call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris: 631-450-2515.

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