Can You Steal a Car That Never Moves? MN Court Says Yes

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Can you steal a car if it never moves? The Minnesota Supreme Court says yes, reversing two lower courts which had said Somsalao Thonesavanh couldn’t be convicted of car theft because he didn’t take the car anywhere, reports Minnesota Public Radio. Thonesavanh had jumped into a car that a man had left running in a driveway on a winter morning. The owner called the police, who found Thonesavanh still sitting in the vehicle, parked just where the owner left it.

Thonesavanh was charged with auto theft, but the law says a car thief “takes or drives a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner.” Because he didn’t take or drive it anywhere, the charges against him were dismissed. Justice David Stras said laws on robbery and larceny do not require anything to be transported or driven away. Stras rejected the application of “the rule of lenity” that requires ambiguous laws to be decided in favor of the defendant. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) this week objected to President Trump’s nomination of Stras to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

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