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How the Grinch Committed Conspiracy, Terrorism, Burgled, and Stole Christmas

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Updated by Joseph Fawbush, Esq. | Last updated on

No, this title is not quite as catchy as "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!", but that's why Dr. Seuss got the big bucks. At this time of year, children, it's not sugarplums that dance in legal bloggers' heads, it's whimsy such as: Exactly what crimes did the Grinch commit during his reign of terror over Whoville?

In other words, would a legally accurate title for the Great Seuss' work be:

"How the Grinch Committed Conspiracy, Trespass, Burglary, Domestic Terrorism and Will No Doubt Be Sued by the Whos for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress After He Attempted to Steal Christmas"?

Like we said, not as catchy, yet it has a certain ring to it. But is it correct? Let's break it down.

We all know the facts begin on Christmas Eve with the Grinch hating the Whos. We are also given to understand that the hating was possibly brought on by physiological condition of the Grinch's heart being two sizes too small. Whether the resulting lack of blood flow could affect the Grinch's judgment enough to limit the formation of the necessary criminal intent, well, Grinch defense attorneys will have to take that to their favorite cardiologist in search of expert testimony.

On to the crimes.


Our first criminal act begins when the Grinch makes his plan with Max the dog to commit crimes like trespass, breaking and entering, and the theft of a whole lotta presents. Conspiracy statues require an act taken in furtherance of the crime. Surely, when the Grinch puts on that ill-fitting Santa suit and plops the horn on Max's head to disguise him as a reindeer, we have our necessary acts. Whether or not Max actually agreed to commit any crime, however, is arguable.

Terroristic Acts

We also know that the Grinch's main purpose was to keep Christmas from coming, and in order to do that, he intended to demoralize the entire population of Whoville. Would that not fit the description of domestic terrorism as found in Section 802 of the Patriot Act? Specifically, the Act prohibits acts "intended ... to intimidate or coerce a civilian population ...." If wiping out every vestige of a civic celebration with the intent of spreading trauma throughout a specific geographic area is not intended to "coerce" a population, then we don't know what is.

Burglary, Trespass

Since trespass is sometimes a lesser included offence of burglary, let's lump them together. We know that the Grinch entered the property of, and then broke and entered into, each house in Whovillle with not just the intent, but the result of larceny. Witness: He slithered and slunk with a smile most unpleasant around the whole room and he took every present!

Yep, it looks like we have the requisite elements to nail that green SOB for burglary.


Not only do we have the Grinch pretty solidly nailed for several felonies -- both federal and state -- but in this day and age, does anyone doubt for a second that the Whos would sue him for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED)? In general, IIED requires extreme or outrageous conduct (check) that intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional distress. Whoops. As we know, the Whos weren't actually sad when Christmas didn't come. They sang anyway. Which leads us to ...

Rehabilitation, Redemption

In a time when the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that the purpose of incarceration is not to rehabilitate, but to punish, let us not waste time with efforts at rehabilitating the Grinch. Especially as, of course, he does that himself. After puzzling and puzzling with his Grinch feet ice cold in the snow, he can't comprehend why he hasn't stopped Christmas from coming after his many criminal acts.

The answer, as we know, is because Christmas doesn't come from a store, great words of wisdom when we are faced with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Mobile Tuesday. But Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

As does the redemption of the Grinch who, when welcomed back by the Whos, sits at the head of the annual Christmas feast. Since rehabilitation is so hard to come by in the criminal justice system, then redemption must be more so. Thank heavens, then, for Theodore Geisel, the Grinch, the Whos, and the best Christmas story since Dickens.

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