D was charged with grand theft under CA Penal Code.
At trial D requested jury instructions that said if D in good faith believed the goods (in this case pieces of wood) had been abandoned by the owner and were free for taking, he should be acquitted, even if this belief was unreasonable.
Court modified the instructions so it said that D must have had a reasonable good faith belief that the owner had consented, then he should be acquitted.
Trial court convicted D of petty theft.
CA COA reversed.
If one takes personal property with the good faith belief that the property has been abandoned or discarded by the true owner, is he guilty of theft, even when such good faith belief is unreasonable?
Mistake of fact is a defense, as long as D relied on the mistake in good faith.
In this case, evidence was presented from which the jury could have concluded that D believed, albeit unreasonably, that the wooden beams had been abandoned.
Therefore, he could have lacked the specific criminal intent required to commit theft.
Where the law requires a specific criminal intent, it is not enough to prove that a reasonable man would have had such intent. The burden of proof is that the D also entertained such an intent.