Shoplifting charges and other types of theft charges are sometimes viewed as being minor crimes that are not that big of a deal. Some defendants decide to fight the charges on their own or plead guilty to the charges because they do not understand the seriousness of theft convictions. The theft attorneys know that theft charges range from less serious to extremely serious, but even less serious charges can be life altering and bring about unexpected collateral consequences.
Jail time, fines, and probation may go along with theft convictions, especially more seriously graded theft convictions. Other consequences related to having a criminal record of any type include difficulty securing employment and rental housing, college and graduate school applications may be denied, denial of a volunteer application, and other situations where background checks are required and a conviction may have a negative impact.
Most common types of theft
- Retail/shoplifting theft – This includes disabling anti theft devices, switching price tags, and hiding one item inside of another item that is purchased.
- Writing bad checks – When a check is written with the knowledge that it will bounce or a check is not paid within a specific amount of time after notice that the check did not go through, the check writer may be charged with theft.
- The employee theft – Employees convicted of theft for stealing money or other property from their employers.
- Purchasing or receiving stolen goods is a crime of theft even if the defendant was not the one who actually took the items. Receiving the items with the knowledge that they were stolen is theft.
- Theft by deception occurs when a person takes control or possession of another’s property by deceiving him or her.
- Theft of immovable property means unlawfully changing title or control of immovable property to benefit yourself or someone else.
Common theft defenses include
- Lack of intent – Intent is an essential element in proving theft, so defendants may make arguments such as they forgot about the item that was at the bottom of the shopping cart when they took the cart out of the store or that they did not think the owner of the allegedly stolen property would mind if they borrowed something while intending to return it later.
- Belief of ownership – Defendants may claim to have believed they owned the property they are accused of stealing and offer proof as to why they believed they owned the property in question.
- Duress – When someone causes another to take property under the threat of violence or otherwise intimidates or forces them to take it, duress may be a defense to theft charges.
- Mistake – Sometimes defendants are simply mistaken about the property that they took and they did not think they were stealing. For example, mistaking someone else’s coat for the defendant’s own coat and wearing it home lacks the element of intent.