In Commonwealth v. Bermudez, a Massachusetts defendant appealed from his convictions of trespass under M.G. L. c. 266, § 120 and larceny of property over $250 under M.G. L. c. 266, § 30(1). Both convictions arose after the defendant took an unattended laptop at the Boston University library.
On appeal, the defendant argued that there was a required finding of not guilty on both trespass and larceny. The appellate court explained that the critical inquiry was whether any rational trier of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the fundamental elements of the crime were met.
With regard to trespass, the court explained that to convict a defendant of trespass, the Commonwealth needed to prove he entered or stayed on BU property after being directly or indirectly forbidden to do so by someone with lawful control of the premises. At trial, a police officer testified that he did notify the defendant he wasn’t allowed to be on the BU campus. The court found this was sufficient for a jury to find direct notice to the defendant.
The appellate court explained that to prove larceny, the Commonwealth needed to prove that the defendant unlawfully took and carried away somebody else’s personal property with the specific intent of depriving the owner of his property. In this case, the Commonwealth also needed to prove that the value of the property was more than $250. The defendant argued that the Commonwealth hadn’t established that he had a specific intent to deprive the owner of the laptop.
The appellate court explained that intent may be proven by inference from the facts and circumstances proven at trial. In this case, the defendant had scanned the library basement while sitting for more than an hour before going over to a desk, grabbing a laptop that had been left behind, and putting it in his own backpack. Once he realized that a group of students was following him, the defendant pushed the laptop towards the owner and ran away. The appellate court explained that these circumstances were testified to by an officer and allowed the jury to infer specific intent.
The defendant also argued that the Commonwealth hadn’t established the laptop was worth more than $250. The appellate court explained that the jury is allowed to apply its own common sense in determining the value of the laptop.
The defendant also argued that the jury was not correctly instructed about notice, and therefore the appellate court should vacate his conviction on the trespass charge. The instruction advised the jury that it was about to hear testimony for the purposes of determining whether the element of notice could be proven. The testimony was not to be considered for any other purpose. The judge also self-corrected to state that testimony about the defendant’s interaction with the police had to be considered solely in connection with the notice issue, and it could not be used to conclude he was guilty. The appellate court found this was an adequate jury instruction. The judgment was affirmed.
If you are charged with a property crime in Massachusetts, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.
More Blog Posts:
Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015
Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014