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Regifting. This Time it's a Crime!

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 27, 2015 1:20 PM

Don't you just hate it when you give someone a gift, and they just hide it away in the back of a closet? Or maybe give it to someone else? You spent hard earned money on that gift! Go ahead, be angry. Just don't break into their house to take it back.

A Burnsville, Minnesota man was recently arrested for burglary after he stormed into his neighbor's house to take back an unappreciated Christmas gift. Let's call this man Mr. Grinch. Mr. Grinch gave a friend a knife set for Christmas. Angry that she wasn't using the knife set in the agreed way (we do so hope he meant cooking), he demanded the knife set back. The friend agreed to give it back. But before she could go get them, he pushed his way into her home, took the knives, and absconded.

Police later found and arrested Mr. Grinch. Is he guilty?

Burglary

Minnesota law states, "Whoever . . . enters a building without consent and commits a crime while in the building . . . commits burglary." In this case, Mr. Grinch entered into his friend's home without consent. She tried to close the door on him, but he stuck his foot in and forced his way in. First element satisfied.

The second element of burglary is committing a crime while in the building. What crime did Mr. Grinch commit?

Larceny

Your first thought was probably "theft." In Minnesota. the elements of larceny are:

  • Intentionally and without claim of right takes
  • Possession of movable property of another
  • Without the other's consent
  • With intent to deprive the owner permanently of possession of the property.

Mr. Grinch intentionally took his friend's knife set. We presume that he didn't intend to give it back. he was going to use it himself or horrors, regift it. So he's guilty of larceny, right?

Not quite. Remember, his friend agreed to give him the knife set back. He just didn't wait for her to go get it first. Arguably, he did have consent to take the knife set, and isn't guilty of larceny.

If he's not guilty of larceny, then he didn't commit a crime while in the house. He shouldn't be guilty of burglary. Case closed...

Trespass

Not so fast. In Minnesota, it is a misdemeanor crime of trespass if a person intentionally "enters the dwelling . . . of another, without claim of right or consent of the owner." Mr. Grinch did commit a crime. He committed trespass when he entered his friend's house without permission.

Mr. Grinch may still be found guilty of burglary yet. The case is still pending, but if convicted, Mr. Grinch could face up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

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