State v. Croy

Decision Date04 October 1966
Citation145 N.W.2d 118,32 Wis.2d 118
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Respondent, v. Charles CROY, Appellant.
CourtWisconsin Supreme Court

Swingen, Stern, Lenahan & Swanson, Oshkosh, for appellant.

Bronson C. LaFollette, Atty. Gen., William A. Platz and Betty R. Brown, Asst. Attys. Gen., Madison, for respondent.

GORDON, Justice.

The appellant was convicted of a violation of sec. 943.21, Stats., and on appeal urges that his conviction should be set aside because the trial court misinterpreted such section and because the statute is unconstitutional insofar as it provides for imprisonment for debt. In addition, the defendant claims that the court had no jurisdiction over him because he was brought into the state under a faulty warrant.

Intentionally Absconding.

There was evidence that the defendant incurred a bill for room rental, food and telephone service and that he left without paying or making arrangements therefor. A suitcase was found in his room after he left, but it was not definitively identified as the property of the defendant. Neither its contents nor its value were disclosed in the record.

The appellant stresses his view that sec. 943.21, Stats., does not permit conviction unless a nonpaying guest defeats the innkeeper's lien by removing baggage. We find no merit in this argument. The statute is designed to prevent a fraud upon an innkeeper and not merely to prevent the latter's losing control of something on which he would otherwise have a lien. In our opinion, the evidence in this case was sufficient to enable to trial court to find an intent to defraud the hotel.

The legislative history of the relevant statutes offers no support for the appellant's claim that he could not be found guilty of absconding. The 1889 statute (sec. 4438b) expressly required an intent to cheat or defraud in connection with the removal of baggage. The 1925 enactment (sec. 343.402) proscribed absconding as well as the surreptitious removal of baggage. The present law which directly governs the case before us was adopted in 1955.

Insofar as it relates to the issue in this case, the most obvious change in the legislation is the deletion of the provision that an offense can be committed by the removal of one's luggage. We believe that this legislative change is readily understandable in terms of the growth of motels and in the more ready access that guests have to their rooms from automobiles. In the operation of a modern motel or motor hotel the guest supervises his own luggage both upon arrival and departure, and the innkeeper pays little attention to his guest's baggage. It is our opinion that the presence or absence of luggage on the hotel premises is no longer deemed so vital a factor in protecting the innkeeper's right to be paid. We believe that the legislative history of the Wisconsin statutes reflects these changes.

A definition of the words 'intentionally absconds' was asserted by the Wisconsin legislative council in its 1953 report (p. 117, vol. V):

'Under this section the actor must abscond without paying for the food, lodging or other service. 'Abscond' means to depart clandestinely. (Webster's New International Dictionary (2d ed.)). In the context of this section a person absconds if he departs without the knowledge or consent of the operator of the hotel, motel, boarding or lodging house, or restaurant. * * *'

The statute indicates a legislative intention to make it a criminal act for a person to depart clandestinely from a hotel regardless of whether he leaves baggage behind; in addition, the statute requires a specific intention on the part of the wrongdoer so that conviction cannot be had in the absence of an act of...

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5 cases
  • State v. Alfonsi
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • January 10, 1967
    ...had to decide whether guilt under a given statute required a specific criminal state of mind. In the recent case of State v. Croy (1966), 32 Wis.2d 118, 145 N.W.2d 118, the accused was charged under sec. 943.21, Stats., with leaving a hotel without paying his bill. An earlier Wisconsin stat......
  • O'Connor v. O'Connor
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • November 6, 1970
    ...It may be his wife's debt, but it is not his or does it become his debt. The imprisonment must be for the debt. In State v. Croy (1966), 32 Wis.2d 118, 145 N.W.2d 118, we held sec. 943.21, Stats., (intentionally absconding without paying a hotel bill) did not violate sec. 16, Art. 1, Wiscon......
  • Locklear v. State
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • January 9, 1979
    ...a check knowing that there are insufficient funds to make the check payable is based upon fraud rather than debt. In State v. Croy, 32 Wis.2d 118, 145 N.W.2d 118 (1966) it was challenged that sec. 943.21 prohibiting the defrauding of an innkeeper constituted an impermissible imprisonment fo......
  • State v. Leeman
    • United States
    • Arizona Supreme Court
    • June 14, 1978
    ...account of fraud, rather than the mere existence of a debt. See State v. Haremza, 213 Kan. 201, 515 P.2d 1217 (1973); State v. Croy, 32 Wis.2d 118, 145 N.W.2d 118 (1966); Nunn v. Smith, 270 N.C. 374, 154 S.E.2d 497 (1967); Rhodes v. State, 441 S.W.2d 197 (Tex.Cr.App.1969). State v. Madewell......
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