Tuesday, September 16, 2014

101 Things

An Author Needs to Know

About the Police and the Law

Robbery vs Burglary vs Theft

In order for the prosecutor to charge robbery, four elements must be proven; that the defendant took money or property from another person; that force, violence, assault, or putting in fear was used during the course of the taking; the property had value; and the taking was with the intent to deprive the victim of the goods.  (Doesn't matter if it was permanently or temporarily.) 

Burglary is a trespass plus an additional criminal act.  The intent to commit the crime must have been formed before the trespass for burglary to be proven.  So first, burglary consists of entering a structure without permission of the owner. You will often hear the attorney ask the witness on the stand: Did you give Mr. Smith permission to enter your home?  Sounds dumb, of course she didn't, but he's proving that element through this witness.  Second, at the time of the entering the defendant had the express intent to commit a crime, such as theft. So he's not just breaking in to look through her underwear drawer, he's looking for something to steal.
Theft is where the defendant knowingly and unlawfully obtained, used or endeavored to use the property of another with the intent to deprive the owner of the property.

Clear?  Okay, let's have a little quiz.

1) You're standing in line at Dunkin Donuts and when the clerk turns her back to get your coffee you look down and see the tips jar.  It's looking pretty full.  On impulse you grab it and stuff it in your purse.  Robbery,  burglary or theft?

 2) You see a purse on the seat of a car.  No one is in the car and the window is open.  You quickly and quietly reach in and take the purse.  Robbery, burglary or theft? 

3) You open an unlocked  back window to an office building, climb inside,  and rummage around the desks.  You walk out of there with a laptop computer.  Robbery,  burglary or theft?

4) You walk up to a little old lady on the street and demand her wallet.  Robbery,  burglary or theft? 

5) You pick a guy's pocket at the train station. Robbery,  burglary or theft?

Answers: 1) Theft.  2) Burglary.  3)Burglary. 4)  Robbery.  5) Theft.


Joyce Ackley said...

This was an interesting little quiz. I missed one, about the car and the purse. I wanted to pass on some info. I don't know how many of our writers will see this, but I'll share. I just bought the new 2015 Writer's Market book. In the magazine section for WW, the info says they want 800 words for a romance and 1,000 words for a mini-mystery! It doesn't give the amount paid for mysteries, but it says $1,000 for romance!!! Where do you think this info came from? I am so surprised. At first I thought WW may be changing their rates and guidelines for the new year, but I am not sure. If it is incorrect information, it makes me wonder how many other mistakes there are in the book. People pay good money for that information.

Chris said...

That is a shocker of an error if it turns out to be one, Joyce. As you say, people pay good money for these markets' guides and it's not as if the change in word count at WW is even recent. It's been that low for a good couple of years at least. Looks like someone didn't do their homework and check with the magazine before they put the info in. Oops. Might be worth you dropping them a line and pointing it out...

Yet another good explanation, Jody. I was interested to see that the item taken has to have some value in order for it to be classed as robbery. So what level of value would it have to be - and who determines that? Say someone took from me a 'worthless trinket', a bit of costume jewellery for example, in the belief that it was real, which has value to me because it was the temporary ring given to me by my fiancé before he could afford a real one (okay, far-fetched but you get my point). In the eyes of the law, would its lack of monetary value mean that no crime had been committed?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce That's a huge mistake. That's very old information. I too ordered that guide just last week (when they dropped the rates to $15 with free shipping...lol) It's a good lesson to always check the submission guidelines with the magazine, either by phone or online, before you submit. I suppose it could be chalked up to human error...but my guess is whoever it editing this guide is not doing their job.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. The object stolen has to have value in order for a crime to be committed. If someone grabs a piece of paper out of your hand and runs, yes, it's annoying and, yes, you have lost something, but the police won't be too interested. That would actually be a petty theft. Some states have a monetary limit of $250 (some have $500) for the taking to be considered a misdemeanor petty theft. Once the value tops that, the crime becomes a felony theft, sometimes referred to as grand theft or grand larceny.

I recall one of my neighbors telling me that she was on a park bench feeding the birds and she looked down and saw that her purse, which had been next to her on the bench, was missing. She just laughed, because it had been an old ratty handbag and it had been filled with broken up bread for the birds.

When you have something with intrinsic value, something that can't be replaced, your grandma's costume jewelry for example, it will be hard to get a serious charge. The DA might try to convince a judge that the perp thought it had value, and therefore he committed a crime through his intent, but it might not stick. It's a wrist slapping offense. But you can bet your paycheck on this; that little hood will eventually snatch something that will land him in jail.

Joyce Ackley said...

That is so funny about the purse being filled with bread for the birds! What a surprise for the robber! I have a friend who lives alone and was frightened when a string of break-ins and home burglaries threatened her peace and safety.The police seemed to think it was teens doing the crimes. She locked herself in her bedroom at night. She put out, in plain sight, an old purse with a discarded wallet containing about ten dollars, some receipts, and a couple items she wouldn't have minded losing. She included an lipstick, tissues, expired coupons, etc. Things you'd find in a purse. I don't think I would have thought of this, but she seemed to think it was a good thing to do. Fortunately, she did not experience any break-ins at her home.

Tamara said...

Well, nasty as it is, I must share this story about an older woman who, according to the story teller, had had her purse snatched many times and filled it with doggy-doo.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. Actually, I think that was a pretty smart thing to do. Most burglars aren't looking to harm anyone, they just want a quick in/out to grab something. She gave them the thing to grab without them having to mess with her.

My first romance I sold to WW was about a burglary. Yes, romance. She fell for the detective.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. Good for her! Not nasty at all...that's karma. When I was little someone kept taking our Halloween decorations off the front porch. My father got fed up and put fish hooks in the hanging witch. Not really such a hot idea, as it was probably kids. My mother made him take it down.

Tamara said...

I can't blame your dad, Jody; sometimes petty offenses can seem so big. I like the romantic story line with the detective. You no doubt handled the burglary in such a way as to pass muster with WW.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. re: burglary romance. Johnene wrote that "it was something different".

Sometimes even different doesn't matter...but this time it did.

Joyce Ackley said...

@Jody, seems like I remember a little about a story featuring a detective. I didn't know it was yours. Did it have a carton of ice cream in it? Was it mint chocolate chip? Did the detective bring the female character ice cream because hers melted? If so, refresh my memory! Could be I am thinking of another story, but I'm not sure.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. That was me. But it was pistachio. My fav. You've got a good memory. :)