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Home / Case Digests / Appellate Division, Fourth Dept. / Fourth Department — Grand Larceny: People v. Rios

Fourth Department — Grand Larceny: People v. Rios

Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Grand Larceny

Claim of Right

People v. Rios
KA 11-01828
Appealed from Niagara County Court

Background: The defendant was convicted of several crimes, including grand larceny in connection with a Jeep that was owned by his former girlfriend. On appeal, he contended that he had a good-faith claim of right to the vehicle, based on back-and-forth arguments with his erstwhile girlfriend. The defendant had agreed to leave his girlfriend’s house if she signed over the Jeep to him, which she did. He returned, though, which she believed violated their agreement, telling him that the deal was off. After several months in jail, he returned to the girlfriend’s residence and took the Jeep without her knowledge.

Ruling: Conviction was modified by reversing and dismissing the grand larceny conviction on the basis of the weight of the evidence. A “claim of right” is a defense, with the prosecution having the burden to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt. The test is whether the defendant had a subjective, good-faith belief of a claim to the property. The Appellate Division found that it was unreasonable for the jury to conclude that the prosecution had established no subjective, good-faith belief to ownership. The girlfriend’s statement retracting the agreement to transfer title was insufficient to disprove the defense.

Edward R. Perlman for the defendant; defendant pro se; Thomas H. Brandt for the Niagara County District Attorney’s Office