For larceny cases in North Carolina the state must allege the proper legal name in the charging document.
The North Carolina court of appeals recently decided that an indictment alleging that a defendant stole some shirts from “Belk’s Department Stores, an entity capable of owning property,” did not sufficiently identify the victim as an entity capable of owning property. State v. Brawley, (Oct. 17, 2017).
The Defendant was charged with stealing two Polo shirts from a Belk’s department store in Salisbury, NC. He was charged with larceny from a merchant under NCGS 14-72.11. The indictment alleged:
“STEAL, TAKE, AND CARRY AWAY TWO POLO BRAND SHIRTS BY REMOVING THE ANTI-THEFT DEVICE ATTACHED TO EACH SHIRT, THE PERSONAL PROPERTY OF BELK’S DEPARTMENT STORES, AN ENTITY CAPABLE OF OWNING PROPERTY, HAVING A VALUE OF $134.50.”
The Defendant was convicted and appealed because the indictment was fatally defective for failing to allege that the victim was a legal entity legally capable of owning property. The key issue here was that the police didn’t call them “Belk, Inc” in the charging documents. The state has to identify the type of entity and just saying that they are a legal entity capable of owning property is not enough.
The majority of the court said that “our Supreme Court has consistently held that [a larceny] indictment must . . . clearly specify the identity of the victim” and must allege that the victim is a legal entity capable of owning property. Applying that rule, the court of appeals stated that “the name ‘Belk’s Department Stores’ does not itself import that the victim . . . is a corporation or other type of entity capable of owning property.” The inclusion of the phrase “an entity capable of owning property” did not save the criminal indictment. The majority saw the case as similar to another case where a criminal indictment was defective even though it alleged that the defendant embezzled property belonging to “The Chuck Wagon.”
The main take away is that a criminal case can be dismissed in North Carolina if the correct legal name of the business entity is not written on the charging document. In this case “Belk’s Department Store Inc.” would likely have been enough. Now when a case is dismissed because the citation is defective the charges can be re-filed by the District Attorney’s Office. While it’s possible for them to do that it’s less likely when the value of property lost is small and the store received all of their merchandise back.
Looking for a Raleigh Larceny Lawyer? If you have been charged with larceny or another theft crime in Wake County, North Carolina contact The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC for a free consultation at 919-585-1486. Our office is located in Cary, NC and you can speak to a Raleigh shoplifting lawyer when you call.