Crimes Against Property
The category of crimes against property includes crimes in which property is destroyed (such as arson and vandalism) and crimes in which property is stolen or otherwise taken against the will of the owner (such as robbery and embezzlement).
Arson is the willful and malicious burning of another person’s property. In most states, it is a crime to burn any building or structure, even if the person who burns the structure owns it. Moreover, burning property with the intent to defraud an insurance company is usually a separate crime, regardless of the type of property burned or who owned the property.
Vandalism, also known as malicious mischief, is willful destruction of, or damage to, the property of another. Vandalism causes millions of dollars in damage each year. It includes such things as breaking windows, ripping down fences, flooding basements, and breaking off car antennas. Depending on the extent of the damage, vandalism can be either a felony or a misdemeanor.
A. Why do young people sometimes commit acts of vandalism?
B. What, if anything, can be done to reduce vandalism?
C. Should parents be held liable for willful damage caused by their children? Why or Why not?
Larceny is the unlawful taking and carrying away of the property of another with intent to steal it. In most states, larceny is divided into two classes, grand and petty, depending on the value of the stolen item. Grand larceny involves the theft of anything above a certain value (often $100 or more) and is a felony. Petty larceny is the theft of anything of small value (usually less than $100) and is a misdemeanor.
The crime of larceny also includes keeping lost property when a reasonable method exists for finding the owner. For example, if you find a wallet that contains the identification of its owner but nevertheless decide to keep it, you have committed larceny. Likewise, you may be guilty of larceny if you keep property delivered to you by mistake.
Shoplifting is a form of larceny. It is the crime of taking items from a store without paying or intending to pay for them. Some states have a separated crime called concealment. This is the crime of attempted shoplifting
As a result of shoplifting, businesses lose billions of dollars each year. The costs are usually passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Consequently, all of us pay for shoplifting.
A. Why do you think people shoplift?
B. What could be done to address each of the reasons for shoplifting you listed? Which would be most effective? Why?
Embezzlement is the unlawful taking of property by someone to whom it was entrusted. For example, the bank teller who takes money from the cash drawer or the stockbroker who takes money that should have been invested are both guilty of embezzlement. In recent years, a number of states have merged the crimes of embezzlement, larceny, and obtaining property by false pretenses (intentional misstatement of fact) into the statutory crime of theft.
Robbery is the unlawful taking of property from a person’s immediate possession by force or intimidation. Though it is a crime against property, robbery, unlike other theft offenses involves two harms: theft of property and actual or potential physical harm to the victim. In most states, the element of force is the difference between robbery and larceny. Hence, a pickpocket who takes your wallet unnoticed is liable for the crime of larceny. A mugger who knocks you down and takes your wallet by force is guilty of the crime of robbery. Robbery is almost always a felony, but many states impose stricter penalties for armed robberies—that is, thefts committed with a gun or other weapon.
Extortion, popularly called blackmail, is the use of threats to obtain the property of another. Extortion statutes generally cover threats to do future physical harm, destroy property (for example, I’ll burn down your barn unless you pay me $500”), or injure someone’s character or reputation.
Burglary was originally defined as breaking and entering the dwelling of another during the night with intent to commit a felony. Modern laws have broadened the definition to include the unauthorized entry to any structure with the intent to commit a crime, regardless of the time of day. Many states have stiffer penalties for burglaries committed at night, burglaries of inhabited dwellings, and burglaries committed with weapons.
Forgery is when a person falsely makes or alters a writing or document with the intent to defraud. This usually means signing, without permission, the name of another person to a check or some other document. It can also mean changing or erasing part of a previously signed document. Uttering, which in many states is a separate crime, is offering to someone as genuine a document (such as a check) when it is known to be fake.
Receiving Stolen Property
If you receive or buy property that you know or have reason to believe is stolen, you have committed the crime of receiving stolen property. Knowledge that the property is stolen may be implied by the circumstances. In most states, receiving stolen property is a felony if the value of the property received is more than $100 and a misdemeanor if the value is $100 or less.
Unauthorized Us of a Vehicle
Several crimes may occur when a person unlawfully takes a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent. The crime of unauthorized use of a vehicle (UUV) is committed if the person only intends to take the vehicle temporarily. This crime, which includes joyriding, is usually punished as a misdemeanor. However, if the person intends to take the car permanently, then the crime may be larceny or auto theft. These crimes usually have stiffer penalties than UUV. The crime of carjacking occurs if a person uses force of intimidation to steal a car from a driver. Carjacking is a federal crime and is punished by a sentence of up to life in prison.
• Receiving Stolen Property
Ivan met his friend Anthony, who was driving a flashy new red convertible. Ivan knew that neither Anthony nor his family owned this car, but it looked good, so he got in and let Anthony take him for a ride. Ivan knew Anthony used drugs and sometimes took other people’s things and sold them to get money to buy cocaine. Anthony offered to sell Ivan a walkman he had in the backseat of the car for $10. Ivan agreed to pay him the money.
A. Have any crimes been committed in the example? If so, which crimes and by whom?
B. Why does society make receiving stolen property a crime? Should it be a crime?
C. Would you ever buy something for an extremely low price from a friend? How would you know for sure it was not stolen?