in Lying, Cheating, and Stealing

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780199225804
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191708411 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice


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This chapter argues that the norm against stealing is clearly an essential ingredient in a wide range of criminal law offenses, often combined with some other moral norm to create a distinctive crime: thus, stealing plus deception constitutes fraud or false pretenses; stealing plus disloyalty constitutes embezzlement; stealing plus coercion equals extortion; stealing plus the use of unjustified force equals robbery; and so forth. The fit between stealing and the law of theft is far from perfect. Until recently, the criminal law of theft was quite narrow, applying only to the misappropriation of tangible property, and excluding such intangibles as a ride on a train, a deed to land, and stocks and securities. Thus, there were many instances in which X could be said to have ‘stolen’ something in the moral sense of the term, without being subject to criminal sanctions for theft. Conversely, there are cases in which X is subject to what is referred to by the law as ‘theft’ even though many people would say that he has not stolen anything.

Keywords: stealing; criminal law; moral norms

Chapter.  2794 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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