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The Case of Bear v. Goldilocks

Web Admin - Thursday, February 27, 2014

illinois criminal civil lawyerWhile people often see the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears as nothing more than a children’s story, it can also act as a simple overview of the legal system. After all, Goldilocks commits a variety of different offenses, both civil and criminal, throughout the story. 

The difference between a civil case and a criminal case is that a civil case involves a dispute between two private parties, the Bears and Goldilocks, while the criminal case involves the state pursuing Goldilocks for her illegal actions. Of course, many of Goldilocks’ actions can give rise to both civil liability and criminal charges.

The Civil Case: Bear v. Goldilocks

The Bears have three claims for which they may be able to sue Goldilocks: trespassing on their land, conversion of the porridge, and conversion of the chair. The Bears can easily show that Goldilocks trespassed on their land, but they will likely not receive any money for doing so, since her act of trespassing did not appear to cause any actual damage on its own. 

As for the claims of conversion, the Bears must show three things: that they owned the porridge and chair, that Goldilocks took some act inconsistent with that ownership, and that their property was damaged by Goldilocks’ acts. Since Goldilocks ate the porridge, and then sat in and broke the chair, the Bears can show that she converted those items and recover their value from Goldilocks.

The Criminal Case: The People v. Goldilocks

The state could also bring criminal charges against Goldilocks for all three of those same actions. These charges would be criminal trespass to land, petty theft of the porridge, and criminal damage to property for breaking the chair. However, the state would not have as easy a case as the Bears did suing for those same actions.

Trespassing is a crime in Illinois punishable by up to a $500 fine and six months in jail, but in order to be guilty of trespassing, a person must enter the land after being warned not to, or they must stay on the land after being told to leave. Unless the Bears had posted a sign warning trespassers, it would only be a civil offense. On the other hand, if Goldilocks had entered the house with a plan to commit a crime, she would be guilty of burglary, a class 2 felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

The petty theft of the porridge is an easier case. She clearly steals the porridge by eating it, and in Illinois the seriousness of the theft is determined by the value of the item. Since the porridge was probably worth less than $500, it would be petty theft, a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2500 fine and one year in prison.

The state could also press charges against her for criminal damage to property for her breaking the chair, but this would likely fail. In Illinois, a person must knowingly damage the property to be guilty of the criminal offense. Because Goldilocks did not know she would break the chair if she sat in it, that charge would probably fail.

If you have recently found yourself involved with criminal charges or civil litigation, contact an attorney today. A Rolling Meadows criminal defense or civil litigation attorney can put their knowledge and legal experience to work for you. Our team serves clients across the northwest suburbs, in areas such as Schaumburg, Palatine, Barrington, and Inverness.

About the Author: Founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, Colin Gilbert, received his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of law in 2005. Colin argues cases across many practice areas including criminal defense, collections, real estate law, and corporate law. He is involved in his local Illinois community as an active member of the DuPage County Bar Association, Northwest Suburban Bar Association, and the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, Colin was nominated for 2012 Business Leader of the Year by the Chamber.


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