Lawmakers draft criminal statutes very intentionally, and every word in a law should have meaning. Thus, when courts are tasked with determining whether certain conduct falls within the scope of a criminal law, the first place the court looks is to the language contained in the statute itself.
In some cases, reading a statute and coming to a conclusion is not a difficult task. However, other situations present circumstances that the drafters of the law may not have thought of when they wrote the law. The court, then, must decide what the legislature’s intention was, and whether the facts in front of the court fit within the statute.
A good example of this is a recent New York theft case, in which the defendant was charged with grand larceny in the fourth degree. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was a personal assistant to the alleged victim. As the woman’s personal assistant, the defendant had access to her corporate credit card information and her Uber account information.