Court rules theft of lawnmower not auto theft

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that stealing a riding lawnmower does not fall under the state’s motor vehicle theft laws.

The high court’s ruling Thursday affirmed an appellate court ruling in the case of a man charged after allegedly trying to steal a riding lawnmower from a property outside Leavenworth in 2015. Joshua Barnes was charged with second degree theft, second degree criminal trespass and theft of a motor vehicle. He objected to the motor vehicle charge, arguing that the definition in state statutes does not include riding lawn mowers.

The trial court agreed and dismissed that charge. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court.

Three dissenting justices, led by Justice Steven Gonzalez, argued that “if the legislature intended to criminalize theft of an “automobile” to the exclusion of other motor vehicles, it was capable of saying so, and we should not overwrite the statute to make it so.”