According to Theft Act 1968 S.1 (1), a person guilty of theft is one that dishonestly seizes a property that does not belong to him with an intention of depriving the other person of it. There are a wide variety of theft charges including larceny, petty theft, shoplifting, burglary, handling stolen goods, grand theft, auto theft, credit card fraud, and embezzlement.
Theft is a criminal offense. The charges could result in jail time, heavy fines, or both. The punishment depends on the value of stolen property. If the alleged stolen property value is $500 or less, the maximum penalty can range from one year jail time to a fine not exceeding $2,500. If the property value is more than $500, the alleged could serve a maximum of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
However, there are many defense strategies that can be used to successfully refute the theft charge even when there are facts that support that the crime was committed. If you are charged with theft you are probably feeling humiliated and helpless. The advice I give is seek immediate legal counsel. The attorney will assess your case and determine the best way for you to proceed. Rosenthal & Wadas, PLLC has all the necessary experience of handling these matters.
Assuming that you have indeed committed the crime, here are possible defenses that you can apply:
Claim of Ownership or right of the property
The defendant may have a valid defense if he claims that he had a good faith belief that the property he was taking was his, or he had the right to own it. However, it is not as simple as saying, “I took this property because it is mine.” No, it needs to be supported by evidence that proves the statement to be true.
The defendant will have a viable defense if he is able to prove that he was under the influence at the time of the alleged theft. He may urge that he was unable to make a rational decision if the property belonged to him or not because he was too intoxicated. Therefore, he had no intent of stealing or was not even in a condition to form the intent. With this kind of defense, the possible outcome is outright dismissal.
Return of property
Returning of the stolen property will work in your favor in the following ways. First, it may give a more sympathetic picture to the prosecutor and consequently help in the case penalty reduction. Secondly, the defendant could demonstrate that he had the intention of returning the stolen property and he so did. He could claim that he had merely “borrowed” the property.
The defense could also argue the defendant had borrowed the item, had the intention of returning it, but forgot to do so. The end goal is normally a reduction in charges or plea.
Entrapment defense works this way: the defendant had no intention of committing the crime. He was a victim who was lured or coerced into stealing. Therefore, the intent did not come from him but from someone else with the aim of trapping him. Even in this case scenario, there is a need for solid proof.
It is crucial to understand that each case is unique and the legal defense will depend on specific elements of your theft case.