Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Steal Definition:

The taking of something from another without any legal right to do so.

Related Terms: Larceny, Theft, Animus Furandi

The act of taking something away from a lawful owner without that owner's consent and with the taker having no legal right or justification for taking the thing.

In the history of the common law, the act of stealing was first known as larceny and robbery.

Gradually, the term was  replaced, in most jurisdictions, by the term theft or, more rarely, the term 'stealing'.

The 1816 edition of the law dictionary which has the stellar name of A Compendious and Comprehensive Law Dictionary Elucidating The Terms and General Principles of Law and Equity defines stealing in a circular fashion as follows:

"In the fraudulent taking away of another man's goods, with an intent to steal them, against or without the will of him whose goods they are."

Section 1 of the English Larceny Act of 1916 took some three hundred words to define stealing as follows:

"A person steals who, without the consent of the owner, fraudulently and without a claim of right made in good faith, takes and carries away anything capable of being stolen with intent, at the time of such taking, permanently to deprive the owner thereof.

"Provided that a person may be guilty of stealing any such thing notwithstanding that he has lawful possession thereof, if, being a bailee or part owner thereof, he fraudulently converts the same to his own use or the use of any person other than the owner.

"The expression 'takes' includes obtaining the possession by any trick, by intimidation, under a mistake on the part of the owner with knowledge on the part of the taker that possession has been so obtained (or) by finding, where at the time of the finding the finder believes that the owner can be discovered by taking reasonable steps.

"The expression 'carries away' includes any removal of anything from the place which it occupies, but in the case of a thing attached, only if it has been completely detached.

"The expression 'owner' includes any part owner, or person having possession or control of, or a special property in, anything capable of being stolen.

"Everything which has value and is the property of any person, and if adhering to the realty then after severance therefrom, shall be capable of being stolen.

"Provided that save as hereinafter expressly provided with respect to fixtures growing things, and ore from mines, anything attached to or forming part of the realty shall not be capable of being stolen by the person who severs the same from the realty, unless after severance he has abandoned possession thereof; and the carcase (sic) of a creature wild by nature and not reduced into possession while living shall not be capable of being stolen by the person who has killed such creature, unless after killing it he has abandoned possession of the carcase."

REFERENCES:

  • Giles, F. T., The Criminal Law (London: Penguin Books, 1954).
  • Williams, T. W., A Compendious and Comprehensive Law Dictionary Elucidating The Terms and General Principles of Law and Equity (London: Gale and Fenner, 1816).

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