How do I defend myself against theft charges?

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2022 | Criminal Defense

We’ve all made mistakes at some point, only to regret them later on. It’s a tough economy, and lots of people in Indiana and around the country are struggling to stay above water financially. Because of that, some are tempted to get on the wrong side of the law just to make ends meet.

Even if a stolen item ends up in an individual’s possession, however, it does not necessarily follow that they committed a criminal act. Everyone has rights and is innocent until proven guilty. For residents of Noblesville and surrounding areas, knowing that you have an aggressive defense team on your side can make all the difference when you are accused of committing a crime.

What is the legal definition of theft?

Theft is essentially the act of taking property belonging to another with the intention to never return it to its owner. The elements that must be present for it to be theft are:

  1. The taking of another’s property.
  2. The intention to never return it.

There are degrees of theft, depending on what kind of property it was and the value of the stolen property, that fall into categories of misdemeanors or felonies as directed by state law.

What does theft look like in Indiana?

Under Indiana statutes, theft is defined as the intentional and knowing act of exerting control over the property of another with the intention of permanently depriving them of the value or use of it. Theft occurs with actions to take, conceal, or transfer property:

  • without the owner’s consent
  • under false pretenses
  • through extortion or blackmail
  • through embezzlement or misappropriation
  • by not disclosing to the owner legal restrictions or prohibitions on the use of the property

Penalties for theft are very strict in Indiana, with the theft of anything worth over $750 classified as a felony. Felony convictions carry substantial fines and jail time, and additional penalties apply if it was the theft of a firearm, or a motor vehicle or its parts. Misdemeanor theft may include first-time offenses, but still carry up to one year in prison and fines of up to $5,000.

Are there effective defenses to an accusation of theft?

One of the key elements that the prosecution must prove in a theft case is intent, and convincing the jury of this can be challenging. Even with clear circumstantial evidence of a crime, the defense could argue that:

  • They thought they had the owner’s permission
  • They thought it belonged to them and not the owner
  • They were intoxicated, and thus could not have an intent to steal
  • Returning the property meant that the accused was borrowing it

Depending on the circumstances of the case, these and other defenses can be an effective counter to unjustified or overzealous theft accusations.