In a recent decision, the Michigan Supreme Court found that a homeowner cannot be charged with larceny for the removal of fixtures from his foreclosed home. If you or someone close to you has been charged with the crime of larceny, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal attorney in Cass County.
Facts of the Case
In the 2016 case of People v. March, the defendant’s father had given his son power of attorney in order to manage his affairs after he moved into an assisted living facility. However, the defendant fell behind on his father’s mortgage payments, and eventually the lender foreclosed on the home, which was then sold to a new owner at a sheriff’s sale. However, the sale also triggered Michigan’s redemption period, which gave the defendant and his father 6 months to redeem the house by paying the balance of the mortgage.
Ultimately, the defendant and his father did not redeem the house during this period. However, when the new owner took possession of the house, he noticed that several important fixtures, such as sinks, cabinets, and air conditioners were not in the house, and the police later determined that the defendant had removed these items during the redemption period. The defendant was arrested and charged with larceny for the theft of the fixtures.
What Is “the Property of Another”?
At trial, the defendant successfully argued that he could not be convicted of larceny, because that property required the perpetrator to take “the property of another,” and the court found that the defendant still retained ownership of the home and its fixtures during the redemption period. Although the trial court dismissed the larceny charge, the Michigan Court of Appeals later reversed this decision, finding that the new owner of the house was also the “owner” of the fixtures because his consent was necessary before the property could be taken.
The case was appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in favor of the defendant. In its decision, the Michigan Supreme Court noted that there was no Michigan statute that explicitly defined what larceny was, and therefore, the crime could only be defined by using the common law, the principles established from previous cases and judicial customs. Under this reasoning, a person was only guilty of larceny if he or she took the “property of another.” In defining this phrase, the Michigan Supreme Court applied common law principles and held that for something to be the “property of another,” someone other than the defendant must hold the right to “possess the property to the exclusion of the defendant at the time of the taking.” Because the defendant still retained ownership of the fixtures during the redemption period, the new owner did not have exclusive control over them, and thus, the defendant could not be found guilty of larceny for their removal.
If you or someone you know has been charged with larceny, it is important to retain an experienced attorney who understands the nuances of the offense and who can help you raise the defense that could make the difference between a conviction and acquittal. For more information, contact the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal attorney in Cass County at 269.982.1100 or visit http://www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.