State v. White, COA22-369, ___ N.C. App. ___ (May. 16, 2023)

In this Union County case, defendant appealed his convictions, arguing error in denying his motion to dismiss either the larceny or obtaining property by false pretenses charge under the single taking rule. The Court of Appeals found no error. 

In December of 2018, Defendant and two associates were captured on surveillance video at a Wal-Mart, using an empty child car seat box and a plastic bin to remove several thousand dollars’ worth of electronics from a display case. As a part of the scheme to remove the property, defendant and his associates purchased the car seat through a self-checkout line for $89, instead of the true value of the electronics hidden inside. At trial, defendant moved to dismiss the charges against him, a motion the trial court denied. The trial court instructed the jury on felony larceny, conspiracy to commit felony larceny, and obtaining property by false pretenses, and the jury convicted defendant of all three, as well as habitual felony status. 

The Court of Appeals first explained that the single taking rule prevents a defendant from being charged multiple times in a single transaction. However, the court noted that “in each of the cases upon which Defendant relies. . . the defendant was charged with either larceny offenses or obtaining property by false pretenses, but not both.” Slip Op. at 7. Previous decisions established that larceny and obtaining property by false pretenses are separate offenses with different elements; in particular, false and deceptive representation is not an element of larceny. As a result, defendant’s apparent purchase of a car seat, when he was actually hiding thousands of dollars of electronics inside, represented a distinguishable offense from larceny, and was not a duplicative charge. 

The court also considered defendant’s argument under State v. Speckman, 326 N.C. 576 (1990), that G.S. 14-100(a) requires the trial court to present larceny and obtaining property by false pretenses as mutually exclusive options for conviction. The court rejected this argument, noting that the crime in question for Speckman was embezzlement, which requires first obtaining property lawfully before wrongfully converting it, making it mutually exclusive from obtaining property by false pretenses. Unlike embezzlement, the court explained that “[t]he offenses of larceny and obtaining property by false pretenses are not mutually exclusive, neither in their elements. . . nor as alleged in the instant indictments.” Slip Op. at 11-12.