Criminal Law, Pages 183–185

People v. Navarro

Appellate Department, Superior Court of California, 1979

Facts:

Defendant was charged with stealing four beams from a construction site. There was some evidence that he believed they were worthless and abandoned however.

Procedural History:

Trial court instructed the jury to find defendant guilty even if he had a good faith belief that he had the right to take the beams, unless such belief was reasonable. He was convicted of petty theft.

Issue:

Was defendant required to have a specific criminal intent?

Reasoning:

Both precedent and other jurisdictions hold that if a specific intent is required for a crime, it must be proven that the defendant had such a specific intent, not merely that a reasonable person would have. One cannot feloniously steal that which he believes he owns. There is no larceny by negligence.

Rule:

If one has a good faith belief that he has the right to take something, he must be acquitted of theft even if such a belief is objectively unreasonable.

Holding:

Yes, it had to have been proven that defendant had a specific criminal intent. Reversed.

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