Defense for Theft Charges


If you are accused with the crime of theft or larceny it is a serious charge that can lead to severe consequences for the rest of your life. People in this situation need to prepare to defend themselves in court. Theft crimes can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, and having either type of conviction on your record can impact your employment, reputation and ability to live freely. It is a stigma no one wants to have in their past.

The value of the alleged stolen property goes a long way in determining the type of charge that is assessed. If the property stolen is valued at less than $500, an individual will be charged with petty larceny, which is a misdemeanor offense. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is up to 1 year in county jail and fines of up to $2,500. If the value of the property exceeds $500, the larceny charge will be a felony, punishable from anywhere from 2 to 5 years in prison and carries a maximum fine of up to $25,000.

What Defenses can I Raise to a Larceny Charge?

There are several different defenses you can raise against a charge of larceny. Your specific defense will depend upon the details and exact circumstances surrounding your case, and this can only be determined with the help of an experienced and knowledgeable defense attorney. Some of the more common defenses that can be used in a theft case include:

Right or Ownership of Property

One defense against the accusation of stealing property is trying to show or prove there was a good faith belief the property taken was theirs or that they had a valid claim to it. This is a very straightforward defense, but there is more to it than simply claiming “I thought it was mine.” In most cases, a defendant will have to provide evidence supporting the claim.

Being Under the Influence of Alcohol

In some instances, it may be possible to successfully refute a theft charge if the defendant is able to establish that he or she was intoxicated at the time of the alleged theft. No matter the type of intoxication or drug type, if an individual was not physically able to form the required intent to steal (for example, in their intoxicated state, they mistakenly thought an item of property belonged to them), they may very well have a valid defense due to intoxication.

Return of Property as a Defense

Returning stolen property will generally not provide a defense to a theft charge. Still, doing so can definitely create a more sympathetic scenario to a prosecutor for purposes of a possible plea deal, and may also help in reducing the penalty handed down (if there is one) in a case.

A different and viable defense may exist, however, if a defendant is able to establish they had the intent to return the property at the time it was taken and actually could do so. It is fairly common to defend theft charges by claiming the property was just being “borrowed.”

Keep in mind this is not a complete list of all defenses that are available to those accused. For expert advice and more information please contact the Longe Law Firm today at 708-298-8397. Gbenga Longe is available for you 24/7 whenever you need legal advice.