A Maine man is being accused of theft for allegedly taking someone else’s motor home without paying for it.
The incident is an illustration of Maine’s decision to consolidate different offenses like shoplifting and petty larceny into a single theft statute.
According to the news reports of the incident, a 78-year-old man from Naples agreed to buy a motor home from a private seller in Alfred, Maine. The seller claims that they came to an agreement, but then the buyer got in the motor home and left. When the seller tried to call him about his promise to pay, the buyer never responded so the seller called the police.
The police found the motor home at the Kittery Rest Area on Interstate 95, with the 78-year-old man inside.
He is being charged with a felony offense of “theft by unauthorized taking or transfer.”
Shoplifting is a way of conducting a theft. It involves taking property from a business or store without paying for it. Normally, it’s for theft crimes where the alleged value of the property stolen is less than $500.00.
But what about private sellers, or people who are selling something on, say, CraigsList? Are they a “store or business” under shoplifting law?
Maine’s shoplifting law seemed to say that no, they were not covered. Instead, taking something from a garage sale without paying for it would fall under a different type of theft, like “theft by unauthorized taking or transfer.”
Back in the 1970s, Maine lawmakers decided that these minute details were more trouble than they were worth. And they were a lot of trouble: If prosecutors charged someone with shoplifting, but then further evidence revealed that the appropriate charge should have been larceny, the case would have to start over to give the defendant and their lawyer the opportunity to strategize against a new charge.
This is why the state legislature enacted 17-A Maine Statute § 351 in 1975. This statute consolidated the following types of theft into a single type of theft offense:
The effect of the consolidation was to look less at how the theft allegedly occurred, but rather at the amount of property that was taken.
For example, in this particular situation with the motor home, back in the 1970s when the statutes were very different, the motor home buyer would probably have been charged with larceny because it was a private seller. However, he could have been charged with shoplifting if the seller had been a motor home business. Changing the entire nature of the criminal offense simply because the seller was or was not in the habit of selling motor homes seems strange, and consolidating certain theft offenses aimed to rectify that issue.
If you have been accused of a theft offense, including shoplifting, in Portland, Saco, or Biddeford, you need legal help. The criminal defense attorneys at Maine Criminal Defense Group can raise your rights and advocate on your behalf. Contact them online or call their Portland law office at (207) 571-8146.
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