I don’t condone theft, but…

…it’s really hard for me to blame this kid.  He was bored at church, so he stole his parents car to escape.

Desperate times and all…

If I had to guess, I’d say he was probably disgusted with the immoral lessons in the stories of Lot and Abraham and decided to could learn more about being a good person from Animaniacs.  He’s right.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Jasper

    Why didn’t I think of that? I just sat there every Sunday and took it. I was such a pushover. An 8-year old pushover, but still.

  • Azkyroth

    I don’t think “stole” is the word we want.

  • IslandBrewer

    Stealing in a legal sense requires the intent to permanently deprive someone of the stolen item. This kid was just borrowing the car without permission.

    And this was in Utah? No wonder, firkin Mormons …

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com M

      I’m not so sure about that. I’m pretty sure kids who steal cars in order to joyride (the intent is never to keep the car) still get charged with grand theft.

      • Glodson

        That’s because we’ve got a legal system that loves to slap non-violent offenders with felonies.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com M

          Well, sure. I never said it was right or just to do so! Just that I’m pretty sure the legal definition of theft has nothing to do with whether you intend to “permanently deprive” someone of the item, as IslandBrewer said.

          • Glodson


            I am thinking that legally, there’s little distinction between taking something forever and taking an item without permission with the intent to return it. In part, the crime isn’t just that the item is gone, but also the effect it has on the person it was stolen from.

            Now, in this particular case, because the child stole the car from his parents, I’m not sure how that plays out. When we start dealing with close relations like that, it can get murkier. I don’t know if the parents could press charges for the theft itself. That’s something beyond my casual knowledge of some law.

          • IslandBrewer

            M, read my reply below.

            We’re talking about two subtly different things. I’m talking about the common law “definition” of stealing, and you’re talking about actual statutes. For the life of me I can’t find a copy of Black’s Law dictionary online … SEEEE!!!! *shows open copy of dictionary and monitor*

            Yes, statutes often neglect the intent part of the law, or intentionally omit it for various reasons, but it can be found in many “regular stealing” statutes.

          • JSC_ltd

            The common-law definition of theft is “to take and carry away the property of another with the intent to deprive the other of it permanently.”

            Most states have “anti-joyriding” statutes precisely because, technically, joyriding is not theft.

          • JSC_ltd

            …And I see I was beaten to it.

  • Azkyroth

    Stealing in a legal sense requires the intent to permanently deprive someone of the stolen item.

    Source for this? It’d be convenient the next time I meet someone who’s been drinking the MAFIAA Kool-Aid.

    • IslandBrewer

      It’s part of our anglo-American common law tradition, and *often* gets worked into the statute of whatever state under which you’re prosecuted. In law school, one is typically taught “model” rules for things like theft, which can obviously vary greatly from state to state. The “intent” component is part of what is usually defined as the archetype for theft laws in the US. (Sorry, I wanted to inter-tube cite it, but I can’t find Black’s Law dictionary online). It’s by no means always a part of the actual statute under which one can get prosecuted.

      The idea of Mens Rea in nearly every law – that there has to be some level of intent to a crime (from the Latin “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea”) means, basically that “there is no guilty act without a guilty mind.” It’s an excellent principle that typically gets overlooked, both casually and in the actual practice of law.

      It also requires that you have legal counsel that argues this point for you, in a manner that convinces the jury that you shouldn’t be charged … so yeah.

      Many Grand Theft Auto statutes that I’ve seen leave that intent part out of it (for obvious reasons). In California, there’s two statutes: Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC and Vehicle Code 10851 VC. The difference between the two is basically intent. The first is theft (like GTA) under conventional terms, and the second typically involves “joyriding,” or taking a vehicle temporarily and then abandoning it.

      So yeah, the “intent” part of stealing statutes is part of the Anglo-American “platonic ideal” law, but not always what we throw thousands of kids into prison for. Sorry, I automatically was trying to make arguments on the kid’s behalf.

      Also, there’s no clear view of his face in the video, so you can’t absolutely prove that it was my client fleeing the car.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com M

        Fair enough! I’m no lawyer, just going off what I read on the interwebs and the newspaper, combined with a dash of pre-law in undergrad. That’s why I had so very many qualifiers in terms of “I think” in previous statements. Thanks for clearing it up.

    • Andrew Kohler

      Someone I previously had not come across the acronym/initialism MAFIAA, as far as I can remember. Did no one advise them that it’s better to encourage people not to associate one’s organization with the mafia?

      Presumably this young fugitive was going to go home in the car eventually–well, if he hadn’t been cornered by the police, anyway–so I say no harm, no foul. Aside from the fact that, well, it’s probably not terribly safe for a seven year old to be driving (although, as the newscaster noted, he did pretty well considering his age–if only he hadn’t run that stop sign!)

      • Azkyroth

        Someone I previously had not come across the acronym/initialism MAFIAA, as far as I can remember. Did no one advise them that it’s better to encourage people not to associate one’s organization with the mafia?

        Oh for FUCK’S SAKE, this is worse than the time I referred to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy and got a rant about supposed Scottish arrogance and ethnocentrism in supposedly assuming that only a Scottish person’s opinion was worthwhile.


        • IslandBrewer

          Wait, don’t make fun of the Scottish Mafia!

        • Andrew Kohler

          Whoa. I *did* Google MAFIAA–alas rendering your very thoughtful howler message link unnecessary–and ascertained what it is (among other things, not actually part of the mafia as far as one can tell). I meant that having an acronym/initialism that *looks like* the word “mafia” is not very good publicity.

          Oh, I see why you thought that: “…not to associate one’s organization…” That does sound like a literal association, doesn’t it? Oops (and the first word should be “Somehow,” while I’m at it). I should have said “…not to have an acronym that makes people think of the mafia”–i.e. associate one with the mafia even if they know it’s actually unrelated–of course, maybe the MAFIAA wants to trigger subconscious associations of threats and broken knee caps. (That last bit was a joke, which I feel the need to clarify because you thought that the comment above was dead serious.)

  • Anonymous Atheist

    And being that it was his parents’ car, which a family’s kids of driving age are regularly allowed to drive anyway, it was just driving without a license, hm?

    • BabyRaptor

      Well, 7 is not the legal driving age….

  • nakedanthropologist

    I admire this kid – I used to try to sneak out of church by telling my parents that I needed to go to the bathroom, and then taking a walk outside. They didn’t necessarily like it, but to their credit, they never punished me for it.

  • Xovvo

    If you can listen closely, you can hear the physical abuse about to happen.

  • deltaexmachina

    The Culture Industry – The Ideology of Death



    • Drakk

      Is that you, Markuze?

  • baal

    @ the legal question of theft. If you take something temporarily, it’s historically a ‘trespass’ and not a ‘theft’. Trespasses can still be illegal but there is a bit of a no harm no foul element to it. If I walk through your backyard, kick the soccer ball there a few times and then walk off again, you can’t claim that I did a theft. If I pick up the ball, take it to the beach and then leave it at the beach, you could argue that I stole the ball – i.e. you’re not likely to get it back in the same condition it left in.

  • Stev84

    And it’s in Utah. So they are probably Mormons. I hear their services can last for hours.