Alablawg

Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Friday, April 28, 2006

An Exercise In Statutory Interpretation

I had a potential client come into my office and explain that she was accused of stealing $1,200.00 from her employer. So I go to the code to see what level of crime that is; i.e. whether it is first or second degree theft. What I find is this:


§ 13A-8-5. Theft of property in the third degree.

(a) The theft of property which does not exceed five hundred dollars ($500) in value and which is not taken from the person of another constitutes theft of property in the third degree.

§ 13A-8-4. Theft of property in the second degree.

(a) The theft of property which exceeds two hundred fifty dollars ($250) in value but does not exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) in value, and which is not taken from the person of another, constitutes theft of property in the second degree.

§ 13A-8-3. Theft of property in the first degree.

(a) The theft of property which exceeds two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) in value, or property of any value taken from the person of another, constitutes theft of property in the first degree.


In short, the amount my client allegedly stole is not covered by the theft statutes. Third degree is anything up to $500.00. Second degree is any amount "which exceeds two hundred fifty dollars ($250) in value but does not exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000)." First degree is anything "which exceeds two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500)." $1,200.00 does exceed $1,000.00 but does not exceed $2,500.00. Thus, it is not covered by these three statutes.

So, all you strict constructionists, suppose my client is charged with theft, and the state proves that the client knowingly obtained or exerted unauthorized control over the property of another, with intent to deprive the owner of his or her property, thus satsifying the definition of theft (Ala. Code 13A-8-2(1)). But the state also proves the value of the theft was $1,200.00.

You are the judge, I ask you to dismiss the case because stealing that amount of money is not prohibited by statute; it is neither first, nor second, not third degree theft. What do you do?