COA: Stolen used tires of value; theft conviction affirmed

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a woman’s conviction for stealing used tires from an Avon auto dealership when it found the tires were of value because they presented a liability to the dealership if used without authorization. 

In August 2017, Crystal Smith entered a Champion Chevrolet auto dealership and stole several disposed tires from an enclosure on the premises. Used tires returned to that dealership were stored in a locked enclosure on the property until they are removed by a contractor Champion pays to retrieve them.

As a matter of company policy, Champion chose to not give away or resell the old tires due to safety and liability issues that could arise if the tires were reused. While stealing the tires, a Champion worker watching surveillance footage saw Smith and called the police. Smith was arrested, and officers escorted her to the dealership to return the tires. 

A jury found Smith guilty of Class A misdemeanor theft, but upon her admitting to a prior unrelated theft conviction, the Hendricks Superior Court elevated the charge to a Level 6 felony. Smith was thus assessed a fine and costs, but not jail time.

On appeal, Smith challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support her conviction, arguing that the tires were not “property” within the meaning of Ind. Code § 35-43-4-2 because the state failed to establish that the tires were of any value to Champion.

The appellate court found her citation of Long v. Dilling Mech. Contrs., Inc., 705 N.E.2d 1022 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999), trans. denied to be misplaced, finding that Champion’s tires were not abandoned property, as they were in a typically locked, monitored and overseen enclosure by its staff.

“The crux of Smith’s argument is her claim that, by stockpiling its used tires for disposal, Champion demonstrated that it regarded the used tires as trash and as having no value to Champion. We disagree,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote. 

It noted the tremendous liability risk to Champion because the unauthorized use of the tires would be unsafe as they could blow out if used on a roadway or highway. It further found that the tires were property to be stolen and of value to Champion in Crystal G. Smith v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-1635.

“The State also presented sufficient evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could find that Smith knowingly or intentionally, and with the intent to deprive Champion of their value or use, exerted unauthorized control over used tires that Champion — as a prophylactic measure — stored on its premises until the used tires could be disposed of properly,” Tavitas concluded.

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