The Iowa Court of Appeals has reversed the first-degree theft conviction of a southeast Iowa man, reducing the conviction to operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent.  

Justin Aaron Davolt of Farmington was convicted of stealing a truck from the parking lot of the Ridgewood Lounge, which is just outside of Fort Madison. He told a friend he was stranded at the bar and took the pick-up to get home. He wrecked the truck about 20 miles away from the bar.

The deputy who found the truck found an open bottle of whiskey and a marijuana pipe inside, plus a cell phone that belonged to Davolt. A stain on a visor of the pick-up was determined to be Davolt’s blood.

According to the Court of Appeals, this case presented the court with the problem of trying to “read a defendant’s mind” because the legislature has made operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent a separate crime. The Court of Appeals ruled that to find Davolt guilty of theft, it would have had to find that Davolt intended to permanently deprive the truck’s owner of his property — and, since the truck was wrecked and abandoned, that wasn’t what happened in this case.