Michigan Penal Code Section 362 (MCL 750.362): Larceny by Conversion
1. Definition and Elements of the Crime
In an ordinary larceny case, the perpetrator takes someone else’s property without permission. Larceny by conversion is slightly different. It involves money or property being voluntarily given to the perpetrator and the perpetrator wrongfully keeping the money or property. In a classic example of larceny by conversion, a homeowner gives a repairman money in advance for home repairs and the repairman never does the work.
There are four general elements to larceny by conversion, all of which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
- First, the property was voluntarily transferred to the defendant.
- Second, the defendant either hid the property or wrongfully deprived the owner of the possession of it. Wrongfully depriving means using or keeping someone else’s property without that person’s permission.
- Third, the defendant intended to defraud or cheat the owner out of the property permanently.
- Fourth, the act was done without the owner’s consent.
There’s one final element—the value of the property. As discussed below, the penalty for larceny by conversion varies by the value of the stolen property. The prosecution must prove the value of the property beyond a reasonable doubt.
A homeowner needs a new roof on her house. She calls a roofer, who agrees to do it for $5,000—$2,500 down and $2,500 once the job is done. The homeowner pays the roofer the initial $2,500, but the roofer never shows up to do the work.
A man goes to a car dealership, ostensibly to buy a new car. He asks to test drive a certain model, and the salesperson agrees, telling him to be back within an hour. The man drives the car off the lot and fails to return that day.
3. Related Offenses
Other similar or related offenses include:
- Larceny, MCL 750.356
- Larceny from a Motor Vehicle, MCL 750.356a
- Larceny from the Person, MCL 750.357
4. Defenses to Larceny by Conversion
Common defenses to larceny by conversion include (1) lack of intent, (2) mistake, and (3) claim of right.
Take the roofer. Suppose he says that he planned to do the work but he just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. He could argue that he didn’t intend to defraud the homeowner. Context will dictate the believability of the roofer’s claim. For example, how much time has gone by since he was hired? If it’s been, say, more than a year, “I was getting around to it” likely won’t be believable.
Now take the man on the never-ending test drive. Suppose he says that he thought it was an overnight test drive and that he planned to bring the car back the next morning. If so, his mistake means he didn’t intend to permanently defraud the dealership. Once more, context is key. Say police discover that the man had posted the car for sale online. In that case, it will be difficult to argue with a straight face that he intended to return the car.
Penalties for larceny by conversion are graduated based on the value of the stolen property. If the value of the property was less than $200, you’re guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 or 3 times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.
If the value of the stolen property was between $200 and $1,000, you’re guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.
If the value of the stolen property was between $1,000 and $20,000, you’re guilty of a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.
If the value of the stolen property was more than $20,000, you’re guilty of a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.
6. Criminal Defense for Larceny by Conversion
In the paradigmatic larceny by conversion case, a gullible victim is swindled out of their hard-earned money or property by a sly scammer. In other words, the victim is sympathetic while the defendant is contemptible. If you’re under investigation for or have been charged with larceny by conversion, don’t expect the system to go easy on you. You need to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Grabel & Associates has been in business for more than 20 years and has handled hundreds of theft cases. Our highly respected attorneys know what it takes to obtain the best result in your case.
For more information about larceny by conversion and to talk about your case, contact Grabel & Associates at (800) 342-7896.