Court Explains the Prosecution’s Burden of Proof in Michigan Theft Cases

There is an element of intent in many theft crimes. To put it another way, the State must demonstrate that the defendant willfully stole the property of another person or individual in order to prove the defendant’s guilt. A Michigan court recently clarified the facts needed to show a defendant’s intent in cases involving theft, in a matter in which the defendant was accused of stealing from an Indian gaming establishment. If you have been charged with a theft offense, it is advisable to consult with an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer about your options.

The Accusations Against the Defendant

Allegedly, the defendants were accused of stealing from an Indian gaming establishment and assisting in the commission of such theft in violation of federal law. The defendants and the prosecutors reached an agreement in which they decided that all but one of the elements of the alleged crimes had been met. As a result, at trial, the prosecution solely needed to demonstrate that the defendants deprived an Indian gaming establishment of funds, property, or money. The case eventually went to a jury trial, where the court determined that the prosecution had proved the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Evidence of Guilt in Theft Cases

Under federal law, anyone who takes and carries away, or intentionally misapplies, property or money valued at $1,000 or less that belongs to an Indian tribe’s licensed or controlled may be fined or imprisoned under the applicable statute. As a result, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants willfully stole or misapplied property or money belonging to an Indian gaming establishment with the intent to steal in order to convict them of theft from an Indian gaming establishment.

Furthermore, anybody who helps or abets the commission of an offense against the United States is prosecuted as a principal under federal law. To convict a party of assisting in the commission of a robbery from an Indian gaming establishment, the prosecutor must first prove that the actual crime was committed and that the defendant knowingly assisted in the commission of the crime.

The basic elements of the crimes were not in doubt in the case at hand; rather, the only question before the court was whether the assets that were supposedly stolen belonged to the Indian tribe. The government had to demonstrate that the tribe had possession of, jurisdiction over, or title to the property in question in order to prove ownership.

The defendants in the case allegedly took free play credits that were offered to other casino customers, which they said did not belong to the casino. The court disagreed, finding that the casino retained power over the credits even after they were given to the players. As a result, the defendants were found guilty as charged.

Discuss Your Charges with an Assertive Criminal Defense Lawyer in Michigan

Despite the fact that misdemeanor offenses are not as severe as felonies, they can nevertheless result in serious consequences. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to determine your options. Ellen Michaels of Ellen K. Michaels and Associates PLLC is an assertive Michigan criminal defense lawyer who will work diligently to help you seek a fair outcome. You can reach Ms. Michaels to schedule a meeting through the online form or by calling 248-202-3345.

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