Stealing a Cow In California

In People v. Smith (1896) 112 Cal. 333, 339 44 P. 663, the Supreme Court stated that, "to make the stealing of a cow grand larceny, the animal must be a live one and not a dead carcass. It is true, if one should kill one of the animals for the purpose of stealing it, and then take and carry away the whole or a part of the body, it would be grand larceny." The concept of an intent to deprive an owner of the main value of his property as the equivalent of the intent to permanently deprive an owner of property has been tested in another area of common law larceny, the area of asportation, the carrying away of the property of another. For example, as to the killing of animals as sufficient asportation, "it is not necessary to remove the entire animal. If the animal is killed by the defendant and he then removes any part of it, there is an asportation of the animal." (3 Wharton's Criminal Law (15th ed. 1995) Larceny, 368, p. 431.) So if defendant shoots a cow and kills it instantly but does not move it, the butchering of the cow by taking and carrying away a large prime rib without moving the rest of the carcass is grand larceny of the cow rather than petty theft of the prime rib. By taking and carrying away a major part, the owner has been deprived of the whole, his cow. (See Boyce & Perkins, Criminal Law and Procedure, Cases and Materials (8th ed. 1999) Offenses Against Property, 1(E), p. 277, fn. a.)