Man who sold rental mower loses appeal over Hamilton County venue

A lawn mower thief failed to convince an appellate court that Hamilton County was an improper venue for his case because the theft did not actually occur until the mower’s signed rental agreement expired one day later in another county.

Alec Clark was convicted of Level 6 felony theft after he rented and immediately sold a commercial rider mower from Runyon Equipment Rental in Carmel.

After signing rental paperwork and paying for one day’s worth of rent, Clark and his fiancé Kassie Werner hauled off the mower. Clark and Werner later created an online advertisement to sell the mower, secured a buyer and sold the equipment to someone in a Meijer parking lot in Marion County.

One month later, Runyon reported the theft to Carmel police, who later arrested Clark. During a bifurcated trial in Hamilton County, a jury found Clark guilty as charged.

Instead of appealing the elements of his theft charge, however, Clark argued that his conviction should be overturned because the venue was improper. Specifically, Clark alleged that because Werner had signed a rental agreement which authorized the use of the lawnmower for one day, the theft did not occur until one day later — when the authorized use had turned into unauthorized — while the lawnmower was located in Marion County.

Relying on Bryant v. State, 41 N.E.3d 1031, 1037 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015), the Indiana Court of Appeals found that no mens rea requirement existed in Indiana Code § 35-32-2-1(b) requiring that pawnshop owner Timothy Bryant know that the victims of stolen items he had purchased were in a different county and “only that they were, in fact, located there.”

“Likewise, here, we find it immaterial whether Clark intended to exert unauthorized use over the lawnmower when the rental agreement was executed, only that the victim — Runyon Equipment Rental — was in fact located in Hamilton County,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the unanimous court. “Accordingly, as venue may be had in Hamilton County, we conclude that the State properly prosecuted Clark.”

The case is Alec N. Clark v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-54.

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