We all know the cliche excuse when someone is caught red-handed stealing something: “I was just borrowing it.”
However, according to a judgement in Fukuoka District Court on Sept 28, an interesting legal precedent was set when a man was found not guilty of theft after successfully demonstrating that he was just repeatedly borrowing a bicycle without permission from the parking area of a housing complex.
On June 8, the 24-year-old suspect was riding a bike when he was stopped by police for routine questioning. Upon learning that the bicycle didn’t belong to the man, the officer arrested him for theft. Since the man was currently on parole for a previous theft charge, this charge would likely result in heavy penalties.
In the ensuing trial, the man explained that after being released from prison he moved into the housing complex in question and noticed an unlocked bike in its parking area. So, he would use the bike to go to the supermarket or convenience store, usually for about an hour at a time, and always put it back where he found it.
At the time he was stopped for questioning, the man had been using the bike for about 12 hours. Still, the judge ruled that on the basis of his previous usage, half a day was “not beyond the scope of borrowing.”
It was an unexpected ruling, and readers of the news online didn’t quite know what to make of it.
“That is a groundbreaking decision.”
“This is the kind of case they would use in law school.”
“So if he used it for more than 12 hours, then it would become theft?”
“What about the wear to the tires, rims, and frame? He is shortening the life of the bike.”
“I wonder how this will affect the rental car case.”
“Is that judge okay?”
“I think you can easily see how wrong this decision is if you simply replace ‘bicycle’ with ‘panties.’“
“I guess we’ve become a communist country now.”
“Okay, it might not be ‘theft’ exactly, but it’s definitely bad.”
“As someone who’s a layperson with the law, this ruling doesn’t make sense, but I wonder what a lawyer would think of it.”
A prosecutor for the case told media, “after examining the ruling and consulting with higher agencies, we will respond appropriately,” which is lawyer-speak for “once we figure out what just happened, we’ll know what to do.”
As many comments mentioned, even if it’s not technically theft, it is definitely wrong and should be in violation of some law. It could be said that the suspect was robbing the owner of his bike’s longevity through wear and tear, and there’s also the catch-all “obstruction of business” law that’s usually good at accounting for criminal oddities like this.
Regardless, while we try to find the legal definition for what happened, hopefully this serves as a reminder to always lock your bicycles and unicycles. Even if they don’t get stolen, you never know what’s being done to them.
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