If you have been charged with a theft crime such as larceny, robbery, embezzlement, grand theft, or shoplifting, you may be considering what kind of defenses may be available to you when you get to court. First and foremost you should consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who will be in the best position to consider the specific facts of your case and the law of your jurisdiction to prepare for your defense. There is no substitute for a qualified attorney acting as your advocate. In the meantime, however, here are a few possible defenses that you and your attorney may consider when heading to court:
- You did not steal the property. This may seem obvious, but this defense can be used in many different ways. For example, if the stolen property was in your house, perhaps you will be able to argue that the property was put there by someone else or was left by the rightful owner. Similarly, you may argue that the rightful owner had given the property to you, or had let you borrow it for an extended period of time. Perhaps the rightful owner regularly let you borrow or use the property whenever you liked, so that you did not steal the property — you were merely borrowing it as you customarily did. All of these “I didn’t do it” defenses will be successful only if you are able to build a compelling story from the facts of your case and will be heavily dependent on the way the judge and jury respond to your testimony and other evidence.
- You did not know the property belonged to someone else. If you did not know that the property was someone else’s, it would be difficult to convict you of a theft crime because the intent to deprive someone else of their property is a key element the prosecution must prove in most jurisdictions. This may be particularly helpful in the case of a charge of theft by possession. In theft by possession cases, you can be convicted of theft even if you did not directly take the property, but, instead, if you knew the property was stolen and you accepted it from someone else. If you did not know the property was stolen, you cannot be convicted of theft by possession.
- You did not have the intent to deprive another person of the property forever. Again, intent to permanently deprive someone else of their property is a key element to all theft crimes in most jurisdictions. This means that if you took property that belonged to you without permission, but planned to return it later, you may have a valid defense to the crime. Like many defenses to theft crimes and crimes in general, however, the success of this defense will depend on the facts of your case and how much a judge and jury believes you. Note that in many states, laws explicitly say that “borrowing” a car for joy riding with the intent to return the vehicle later to the owner is not a defense to grand theft auto.
Depending on the law of your state and the facts of your case, these defenses may or may not be available to you. Even if the defenses are available to you in theory, you still need to convince a judge or jury that your version of events is true. Experienced reckless driving lawyer Fairfax, VA residents rely on can help make sure that the defenses you choose are available under your state’s law and that you deliver the defenses effectively to persuade a judge and jury that you are not guilty of a theft crime.
Thank you to our friend and contributor Dave Albo – Attorney for his insight into criminal defense and theft.