Calif. Appeals Court Tosses iPhone Theft Charge as 'Temporary Taking'

"Taking cut flowers from a florist without consent, with intent to return them in a week" and "Taking a neighbor's lawn mower without consent for the summer, with intent to return it in the fall" would both qualify as theft, because the deprivation was major, the court wrote in its decision.

"Much depends," said the court, "upon the nature of the property and its expected useful life...It is one thing to take another's fresh strawberries with the intent to return them two weeks later, another thing to take his diamond ring with a like intention."

Which brings us to joyriding.

Joyriding--the temporary taking of another's car--is not theft, according to the court, because the deprivation is only temporary (and the car is non-perishable). Likewise, one kid's hiding another kid's bicycle overnight, in order to "get even" for the owner having teased the hider, is not theft but instead temporary taking.

Returning now to Cardoza and his iPhone, the court found that, "the phone was neither perishable in nature nor good for only seasonal use." Further, that Karr's taking of the phone was temporary, done in order for him to make a call and not to deprive Cardoza permanently of its use (nor to deprive Cardoza of a major portion of its value and enjoyment).

"Taking a phone for temporary use is far more akin to 'joyriding' or taking a bicycle with intent to return it the next day, which do not constitute theft," found the court.

A Superior Court jury acquitted Carr of robbery, but convicted him of grand theft. He received a sentence of eight months of home confinement. The appeals court unanimously reversed that decision and vacated the sentence.

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