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Wed Jun 12 2013

James Lobsenz Successfully Argues Client Couldn't Steal What Was Already His

James Lobsenz has successfully appealed William Lau's felony theft convictions before the Washington State Court of Appeals. The Court found that the evidence presented was simply insufficient to prove the crime of theft.

Lau was accused of deliberately underreporting his gross gambling receipts. Since the applicable municipal gambling taxes were computed as a percentage of gross gambling receipts, the cities claimed the defendant deliberately evaded paying the full amount of his gambling taxes. But the Court of Appeals held that even if the cities' theory of deliberate underpayment of taxes was correct, such conduct did not and could not constitute the crime of theft. Theft requires proof that the defendant took, or exercised unauthorized control over, "the property of another." The gross receipts taken in from the operation of gambling games did not constitute "property of another." The cities had no ownership interest in those receipts; they belonged to the defendant. Since they belonged to him, it was legally impossible for him to be found guilty of stealing them, and so the defendant's theft convictions were reversed.

The decision can be found here.

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"The criminal justice system is not perfect by any means. Mistakes are made and innocent people are wrongfully convicted. Trial judges make serious errors, and prosecutors and police sometimes engage in unfair and illegal conduct in a misguided zealous effort to punish the bad guy.

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