In a prosecution for theft, several factors should be assessed to determine whether the accused intended to deprive the owner of property. First, concealment of goods inconsistent with the store owner's rights should be considered. "Concealment" is conduct which is not generally expected in a self-service store and may in many cases be deemed obtaining unauthorized control over the property in a manner likely to deprive the owner of the property. Other furtive or unusual behavior on the part of the defendant should also be weighed. For instance, if a customer suspiciously surveys an area while secreting the merchandise this may evince larcenous behavior. Likewise, if the accused flees the scene upon being questioned or accosted about the merchandise, an intent to steal may be inferred. The customer's proximity to the store's exits is also relevant. Additionally, possession by the customer of a shoplifting device with which to conceal merchandise would suggest a larcenous intent. One of these factors or any act on the part of the customer which would be inconsistent with the owner's property rights may be taken into account as relevant in determining whether there was a larcenous intent.
Defendant challenged his convictions for two separate charges of theft under $ 300 from the Circuit Court. Defendant was charged with two separate counts of theft under $ 300. In the first case, he was observed concealing merchandise under his clothing and leaving the store without paying for it. In the second case, he was observed concealing merchandise under his clothing. However, when a store employee approached him, he returned the items to the shelf and fled the store. Defendant was convicted of both charges. This appeal followed.
Does the fact that a storeowner temporarily consented to a customer's possession of merchandise preclude a conviction for larceny if the customer exercised dominion and control over the property by using or concealing it?
The court affirmed the convictions. There was ample evidence to support the first conviction. With regard to the second case, the fact that a storeowner temporarily consented to possession did not preclude a conviction for larceny if the customer exercised dominion and control over the property by using or concealing it in an unauthorized manner. Here, defendant knowingly removed the merchandise and secreted it under his clothing. This act in itself met the requirement of concealment. The fact that this concealment was brief or that he was detected before the goods were removed from the premises was immaterial. The intent to deprive the owner of his property was inferable from his handling of the property. Thus, the elements of theft were established. The court affirmed defendant's convictions for two separate charges of theft under $ 300.