Criminal Law

US vs CARLOS G.R. No. 6295 September 1, 1911 THEFT, LARCENY


The accused had been a consumer of electricity furnished by the Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company for a building containing the residence of the accused and three other residences. The representatives of the company, believing that more light was being used than their meter showed, installed an additional meter (Exhibit A) on a pole outside of defendant’s house, and both it and the meter (Exhibit B) which had been previously installed in the house were read. Exhibit A read 218 kilowatt hours; Exhibit B, 745 kilowatt hours. On March 3, 1910 each was read again, Exhibit A showing 2,718 kilowatt hours and Exhibit B, 968.


In other words the actual consumption, according to the outside meter, was more than ten times as great as that registered by the one inside. Obviously this difference could not be due to normal causes.


The city electrician testified that the electric current could have been deflected from the inside meter by placing thereon a device known as a “jumper”.


The trial court found the defendant guilty of the crime charged and sentenced him to one year eight months and twenty-one days’ presidio correccional, to indemnify the offended party, The Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company, in the sum of P865.26, to the corresponding subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to the payment of the costs.


Ignacio Carlos was accused of the crime of theft for taking away two thousand two hundred and seventy-three (2,273) kilowatts of electric current, of the value of nine hundred and nine (909) pesos and twenty (20) cents Philippine currency.


Counsel for the appellant insists that the only corporeal property can be the subject of the crime of larceny, and in the support of this proposition cites several authorities for the purpose of showing that the only subjects of larceny are tangible, movable, chattels, something which could be taken in possession and carried away, and which had some, although trifling, intrinsic value, and also to show that electricity is an unknown force and cannot be a subject of larceny.


And article 518 of the revised penal code fixes the penalty for larceny in proportion to the value of the personal property stolen.


ISSUE:  Can electricity be a subject of theft?


RULING:  It is true that electricity is no longer, as formerly, regarded by electricians as a fluid, but its manifestation and effects, like those of gas, may be seen and felt. The true test of what is a proper subject of larceny seems to be not whether the subject is corporeal, but whether it is capable of appropriation by another than the owner.


Electricity, the same as gas, is a valuable article of merchandise, bought and sold like other personal property and is capable of appropriation by another. So no error was committed by the trial court in holding that electricity is a subject of larceny. The value of the electricity taken by the defendant was found by the trial court to be P865.26. This finding is fully in accordance with the evidence presented. So no error was committed in sentencing the defendant to indemnify the company in this amount, or to suffer the corresponding subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.


The judgment being strictly in accordance with the law and the merits of the case and was affirmed, with costs against the appellant.

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