Riding mower a motor vehicle? Ga. Supreme Court says no

At least when it comes to the motor vehicle theft law.

In a 4-3 opinion, the court reversed the conviction of a man sentenced to 10 years for stealing a lawnmower.

"To be sure, a riding lawnmower is capable of transporting people or property and of driving the street for short stretches, but that is not what the machine is designed for or how it is normally used -- there being little grass to mow on streets, and there being faster and less noisy ways of moving people and property around," Justice David Nahmias wrote for the majority.

In 2006, Franklin Lloyd Harris and two others stole a Toro riding mower worth more than $500 from a Home Depot in Dalton, drove it to Athens, Tenn., and sold it, court documents state.

As a repeat offender, Harris received 10 years in prison under the motor vehicle theft law and the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the sentence.

While that conviction was thrown out Monday, Harris also had been convicted of theft by taking. He will be resentenced in Whitfield County on that charge alone.

Dissenting Justice Harold Melton pointed out that in the state's "chop shop" law, the term motor vehicle includes any devices "which are self-propelled but which are not designed for use upon a highway, including, but not limited to, farm machinery and construction equipment."

"This definition of ‘motor vehicle' is obviously broad enough to encompass a riding lawnmower," he continued. "Thus, if a riding lawnmower were stolen and taken to a ‘chop shop,' it would be a ‘motor vehicle' for purposes of its theft and storage and dismantling at a chop shop."

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