Friday, July 15, 2016

Michigan Man Who Stripped Fixtures From His Home After Foreclosure Sale But Before Redemption Period Expired Dodges Larceny Conviction After Being Charged With Wrong Crime; State Supremes: Defendant May Have Been Guilty Of Some Other Crime, But Not The One That Prosecutor Charged Him With

In Westland, Michigan, The Associated Press reports on a guy who may not have necessarily been innocent of a crime, but was found to be not guilty of the particular charge a prosecutor tagged him with:
  • The Michigan Supreme Court says a Detroit-area man can't be charged with larceny for removing fixtures from his foreclosed home.

    The court isn't defending the practice. But it says Timothy March still had a right to the Westland property during a six-month period when he could have scraped up the money to keep it.

    When the six-month period expired in 2013, new owner John Hamood found many things missing, including cabinets, furnace, doors and hot water tank. March was charged with larceny.

    A judge dismissed the charges, but the appeals court reversed the decision. Now the Supreme Court has dismissed the charges again.

    The court says there still might be other charges that fit. It also says Hamood could file a lawsuit.(1)
Source: No larceny charges after fixtures taken from foreclosed home.

For the court ruling, see People v. March, No. 151342 (Mich. June 23, 2016)
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(1) From footnote 1 of the Michigan Supreme Court ruling:
  • Despite the failure of the larceny charge in this case, it is possible that defendant’s actions might properly give rise to alternative criminal offenses. The prosecutor here has indicated a belief that defendant may be guilty of at least two other offenses: embezzlement, MCL 750.181(1), and malicious destruction of property, MCL 750.380.

    We do not here opine on the applicability of either of these, or any other criminal offense, to defendant’s conduct.

    Additionally, a foreclosure-sale purchaser such as Hamood is not without recourse, as he has various civil remedies. One is MCL 600.3278(1), which provides a foreclosure-sale purchaser with the right to pursue damages against a mortgagor who causes injury to the property during the redemption period. Another is the procedure set forth in MCL 600.3237 and MCL 600.3238, which enables the purchaser to inspect the property and institute summary proceedings for possession under MCL 600.5701 et seq. if the person then in possession is damaging the property.

    Moreover, the statute defines “damage” to include “[m]issing or destroyed structural aspects or fixtures.” MCL 600.3238(11)(d). We also emphasize that the analysis in larceny cases such as the instant one relies heavily on the statutory or contractual framework establishing the individuals’ respective rights in the property. The conclusion reached here is consequently limited to circumstances in which the mortgagor retains his possessory rights in the property during the redemption period and does not, for instance, contract them away.

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