Crime of theft by coercion occurs when the criminal intent to commit the punishable act is present in the perpetrator, knowing at the time of the act that they are wrongfully appropriating something owned by a third party without their consent, with the intention of taking possession of it.
The standard crime of theft differs from the crime of theft by coercion. The crime of theft typically occurs through negligence, whereas in the crime of theft by coercion, one of the tools of coercion is used to steal from the victim.
The element of coercion in theft is defined as any forcible means imposed on individuals to disable or eliminate their resistance to facilitate the theft. It is not necessary for the coercion to precede or contemporaneously accompany the act of misappropriation, but it can be fulfilled even if it immediately follows the act, as long as the purpose is to secure the stolen item.
The legislator did not specify a certain degree of severity for coercion; any degree sufficient to establish the aggravated circumstance is not required. The legislator also does not require that coercion be committed by a specific means.
The legislator punishes theft by coercion with temporary hard labor. If coercion results in injuries, the punishment is permanent or temporary hard labor.
Here, we refer to a case where the public prosecution had brought the accused for a criminal trial for the crime of theft by coercion... During the course of the investigation, the victim concluded that "the accused had stolen the wallet. Upon realizing this, the victim apprehended the accused. In an attempt to free himself, the accused struck the victim in the face using the wallet as a weapon, and subsequently abandoned it before fleeing the scene."
Before the Criminal Court, the defense of the accused argued that what is proven in the documents is that coercion occurred with the intention of the thief escaping after leaving the stolen item, and thus coercion is not fulfilled in the theft.
The court disregarded this fundamental defense argument and ruled for the punishment of the accused with five years of imprisonment for the crime of theft by coercion.
The convicted party appealed this judgment through cassation on grounds of violation of the right to defense and errors in the application of the law. This is because the judgment disregarded this fundamental defense argument and did not examine or scrutinize it. Furthermore, the judgment did not evaluate the evidence of the presence of coercion in the theft.
The Court of Cassation overturned the appealed judgment due to its failure to state the facts of the case and the legal elements of the crime for which the appellant was convicted. Additionally, the judgment did not address the appellant's defense or respond to it, nor did it present valid evidence that could lead to the consequences imposed on them, thus indicating a deficiency in the judgment that necessitates its annulment.
Originally published 15 June 2023
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