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Court Looks at Law Regarding Accomplices in Theft Case

Sources show that, by stipulation, both cases were tried together, with separate judgments to be entered in each. In the first titled information, the offenders were charged with (a) criminally buying and receiving stolen property, consisting of 4 cases of handkerchiefs valued at $68.40; (b) criminally concealing and withholding the said property; and (c) petit larceny involving those handkerchiefs. In the second titled information, the offenders were charged with petit larceny, in that they stole 20 cases of handkerchiefs from their employer, valued at not more than $100.00.

At the trial, the People, called the fourth offender as their witness. After he was warned by the Court of his Constitutional rights, and with his attorney standing by his side, he testified that he and another man was employed as shipping clerks by Handkerchief Company; that the other offender, a truck man employed by Trucking Company, who had been calling at their employer’s place of business to pick up packages, approached him, and in the presence of the other employee propositioned him to enter into a ‘handkerchief deal’ with him, suggesting that a person will get for him cartons of handkerchiefs (which presumably stolen from his employer) and that he would pay him $20.00 per carton for them. They all agreed to join him in this ‘deal’, with the $20.00 per carton to be divided between them.

A New York Criminal Lawyer said the court held that while they are accomplices of each other in the petit larceny case, neither is an accomplice of the other offenders in the receiving and concealing case, under Section 1308-a of the Penal Law, which provides in substance that the thief is not an accomplice of the person charged with receiving or concealing. Hence, both confession, with respect to and insofar as they may implicate the others, if legally sufficient and credible, do not require corroboration. With respect to the effect of their confessions on the charge against the truck man, the situation is different and will be discussed separately.

We now come to the case against the truck man. The evidence against him consists of the admissions made by other accomplice, to the effect that he sold the handkerchiefs to them, plus the testimony of the two employees of the company. Do they supply the needed corroboration?

A Suffolk County Criminal Lawyer said the section 1308-a of the Penal Law refers to instances where the receiver had no part in the original theft. In such a case, the thief is not an accomplice of the receiver. Where, however, the receiver induced, aided and abetted in the original larceny, he became an accomplice of the thief and the thief, in turn, became his accomplice. The provisions of Section 1308-a of the Penal Law do not apply in such a case.

Section 2 of the Penal Law provides that ‘a person concerned in the commission of a crime, whether he directly commits the act constituting the offense or aids and abets in its commission, and whether present or absent, and a person who directly or indirectly counsels, commands, induces or procures another to commit a crime, is a ‘principal’.’ If the testimony of the accused-witness and the confession of his co-employee are to be given credence, the truck man ‘counseled, induced and procured’ them to steal, and he is therefore a principal in the larceny charge. One who causes another to steal for him is guilty of larceny since ‘it is a taking by both, and not a receipt by one from the other.’

A Westchester County Criminal Lawyer said larceny and criminally receiving are distinct and independent crimes. Each is a separate crime. A larcenist cannot criminally receive the same property. While a person may be indicted on both larceny and criminally receiving, he cannot be convicted of both. Hence, if the truck driver is guilty at all, it is only of the crime of petit larceny and not receiving, provided the legal proof is sufficient to sustain the charge.

In this case, there is a strong suspicion of guilt on the part of each offender. However, our system of criminal jurisprudence requires more than mere suspicion, no matter how strong. It requires the proof of defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, before he can be convicted. We might well adopt the language in People v. Gowasky, ‘The ideal of justice is that the guilty shall never escape punishment and the innocent shall never be accused falsely or convicted mistakenly. In practice, justice under our law and procedure doubtless falls far short of this ideal, and the guilty at times escape because of rules intended for the protection of the innocent. Justice is done according to law by sentence that the doors of a prison shall close upon the accused only when the guilt has been established according to law. That has not been done here.’

Reluctantly, we must, as a matter of law, grant the motion made by each of the offenders. Each offender is acquitted.

Stephen Bilkis & Associates, with offices throughout New York, you can now secure legal assistance in cases involving felony shoplifting, criminal possession of stolen property, and the likes conveniently. Its Kings County Grand Larceny Lawyers, or its New York Criminal Attorneys will entertain any queries and extend help relating to such cases.

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