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Defenses to Theft

| Jun 18, 2014 | Uncategorized |

Theft is a general term that applies to several different crimes in which a person’s property is taken without his or her permission. As such, there are two elements that make up theft:

  • An act of taking someone else’s property
  • The intent of the ‘taker’ to deprive the other person of the said property permanently

Types and Degrees of Theft

In theft cases, it is often asked 1) what kind of property was taken and 2) what is the worth of the stolen property. The answers to these questions will then determine the type and degree of theft charges that can be filed. The more common definitions are:

Petty Theft, in which the value of the stolen property falls below the value set by the law. Depending on the jurisdiction, a petty theft will usually involve an item that costs $500 to $1000. They are typically classified as misdemeanors or minor crimes.
Grand Theft, in which the value of the stolen property is above the limit of petty theft.

There are several defense strategies employed by lawyers when it comes to theft cases. If we assume that the defendant indeed took the property, then here are the typical defenses that may apply.

Ownership or property or claim of right

A defendant accused of stealing someone else’s property may have a valid cause if they can establish that they believed the property was theirs, or had a claim to it. This is a rather straightforward defense strategy, but it is not as easy as stating that ‘I thought it was mine.’ The courts and jury will need proof and evidence to substantiate such beliefs.


There are instances when the defense panel established that the defendant was intoxicated when the property was stolen. No matter the type of intoxication – be it chemicals, alcohol or drugs, establishing that the individual had no intent to steal the property and only did it because in their intoxicated state, he or she thought that the property was his or hers, then the defense could be valid.

Return of property

Many think of returning a property as a way to defend against a theft case. It may not exactly get the case dismissed, but this defense strategy can work to prevent charges from being raised in the first place. If the theft has occurred and the suspect intended to return the property, then this could be reason for the plaintiff to no longer press charges.

If the case is already ongoing, then this defense claim could help lessen damages, if the defendant is indeed found to be guilty.


The idea behind entrapment is that an individual commits a crime because he or she was induced by another person, in order to prosecute the true target. When it comes to theft, the defendant may claim that he or she stole another’s property in order to apprehend another individual.

If you are in need for an established criminal defense lawyer who can help you with your case, contact The Kyle Law Firm to schedule an appointment.