Being accused of stealing someone’s property can be a frightening experience. Many people are aware of the seriousness of theft charges and the consequences that could result from a conviction. This makes having a good defense imperative so you do not lose a significant amount of freedom with a prison sentence.
Since theft cases vary, the defense options open to you will depend on the particular circumstances of your case. FindLaw provides some background into defenses against theft charges that may help you to understand how to handle your case.
No intention to steal
Your intentions concerning the stolen property should be a critical factor. In some situations, a person ends up possessing someone else’s property by accident. They may have taken it without knowing it belonged to another person. To take one example, you might find lost property. Upon discovering the property is not yours, you may have intended to return it at the first opportunity if you could find the owner.
Coercion to steal
Some people engage in theft only because a stronger party forced them to commit the act. If duress was a factor in taking property, it may lead to an acquittal or a dismissal of the charges. Duress may become even more important if you are too young to understand your circumstances or if an adult has authority over you and coerced you into taking another’s property.
There is also the defense of entrapment. This refers to instances when law enforcement traps someone into committing a crime so they can prosecute the person for it. In this case, you would not have stolen property had another party not entrapped you into doing so.
Possession by consent
You may have someone else’s property by their consent. The owner may have entrusted you with it for a brief period of time. As long as you are abiding by whatever agreement you made with the owner, law enforcement should not prosecute you for theft. Producing a contract or relevant paperwork you signed with the owner may bolster your argument.