Sometimes it is good to be the thief

An Office Depot in Fulton County had video and still photographs, clearly showing Fields’s unobstructed face and body from several angles, stealing laptops. Fields’s features, which matched those of the man in the video, were described by the interviewing officer who identified Fields in the courtroom. Two witnesses testified that Fields appeared to be the man in the video, and the State itself urged in closing argument that Fields was the man stealing the laptops in the video.

Thus, the uncontroverted direct evidence that Fields was the original thief, the State’s closing argument that Fields was the original thief, and the fact that “no evidence identified any original thief other than.

Fields was later arrested and charged with, among other things, theft by receiving (one count for each laptop).

Under OCGA § 16-8-7 (a), [a] person commits the offense of theft by receiving stolen property when he receives, disposes of, or retains stolen property which he knows or should know was stolen unless the property is received, disposed of, or retained with intent to restore it to the owner. “Receiving” means acquiring possession or control or lending on the security of the property.

The Georgia Supreme Court has explained this offense as follows: “The offense of theft by receiving is intended to catch the person who buys or receives stolen goods, as distinct from the principal thief. An essential element of the crime of theft by receiving is that the goods had been stolen by some person other than the accused.” The State correctly pointed out that it has no burden to prove that the accused did not steal the goods if the principal thief is unknown, but this does not change the fact that if direct and uncontested evidence identifies the defendant as the original thief, the defendant cannot be convicted of theft by receiving.

FIELDS v. THE STATE, 2011 Ga. App. LEXIS 585, July 1, 2011