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Court: Violent Snatching of iPhone was Temporary Taking Not Theft

iStock/Thinktock/Apple, Inc.(LOS ANGELES) -- An appellate court in Contra Costa County, Calif., has discovered a previously unknown pastime: cellphone joyriding.

It involves a stranger taking violent possession of an owner's phone against the owner's will, but the court has found that this isn't theft. It's "temporary taking."

The facts of the case, according to the appellate court's decision, filed Sept. 26, are these: "On December 20, 2010, Matthew Cardoza was standing outside the hospital where he worked, taking a 10 minute break. He was using his new Apple iPhone 4 cell phone to exchange text messages with his fiancee."

He had just hit "send" on his last text when a stranger approached him and said, according to the court filing, "Hey, man, let me get that phone."

The stranger took the phone out of Cardoza's hands and made off with it. Cardoza gave chase, grabbed the man by the back of his shirt, and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, the stranger yelled, "Give me the phone, give me the phone. I'll hurt you. Give me the phone." He punched Cardoza in the head several times.

Cardoza got the phone back, after which the man said, "I'll pay you, I'll pay you. I just want the phone." Cardoza told the man he didn't want his money and asked him please to leave him alone.  

The violent stranger was Kurt Carr, who prior to the incident, had a fight with the mother of his fiancee, according to the filing.

"He felt he had to call his fiancee immediately to tell her about his fight with her mother," according to court papers. Carr went looking for a phone, and saw Cardoza on his new iPhone. He then asked Cardoza multiple times for the phone, according to the filing, following which, there was the struggle.

The court found that in order to prove theft, the prosecution would had have to have shown that "[Carr] intended to deprive [Cardoza] of [the phone] permanently or to remove it from [Cardoza's] possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property."

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