Theft crimes come with unforeseen penalties and punishment, which are extremely serious. The conviction for a theft crime may have a significant impact on your daily life. Many people facing theft charges in San Fernando Valley & Los Angeles are innocent. Therefore, you need to seek help from a criminal defense attorney. A robust defense for your criminal charge heavily depends on the nature of your crime. If you review the case with a criminal attorney, they help you build the defense that suits your case.
At The Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel, we build strong legal defenses for our clients to help them fight the charges. Theft crimes involve taking property belonging to another person to deprive them of it permanently. The common types of theft crimes include shoplifting, burglary, looting, robbery, embezzlement, and petty theft. In a theft crime case, the prosecution must prove certain elements such as unauthorized taking, keeping, and using another person's property.
Several legal defenses may apply in a theft case even when the underlying facts support that the defendant took another person's property without permission. Like any other criminal offense, the facts surrounding the case determine the defenses you could use. Following are the defenses that could apply in your case:
You Had No Intent of Stealing The Property
The prosecution must prove you intentionally stole the property before you are convicted of a theft crime. For example, you are accused of stealing a phone. In that case, the prosecution team must prove you intended to permanently deprive the owner of the phone and not just borrow to return it.
Additionally, in a shoplifting case, you could walk out of the shopping center with goods and forgot to pay. The situation may occur when the accused victim is distracted by their incoming calls or their children. Therefore the defendant may apply the defense if they had no intention of stealing the items. However, for the defense to be accepted, the defendant will have to testify their intentions.
You Had a Right To Own The Property
Sometimes in a theft crime, it might be unclear about who owns the property. You may apply the defense if you can establish you had the belief the stuff you took was yours or that you had a valid claim on the property. Essentially you cannot steal what is yours. With your criminal defense attorney, you may provide evidence to support the alleged property was yours or you had a right to own it.
You Were Drunk When The Crime Occured
You may apply the defense if you can establish you were intoxicated when the alleged theft took place. It doesn't matter the kind of intoxication - chemical, drug, or alcohol - if you were unable to create the aim of stealing. For instance, you were too drunk and mistakenly took someone's expensive watch, thinking it was yours. Therefore, you and your defense attorney may apply the defense of intoxication. However, you will have to prove you were intoxicated at the time when the crime occurred.
You Returned The Alleged Property
Sometimes you may wonder whether returning a stolen item may prevent theft charges or provide a theft defense. However, returning stolen property cannot provide a defense to a theft charge. Notably, a viable defense may occur; however, for instance, the defense will work if you establish you intended to return the property in question at the time it was taken. The judge will be more sympathetic with you during the sentencing exercise. Sometimes you may receive a short sentence when your defense attorney argues that you returned the alleged property. Therefore with the help of your competent attorney, you may argue you returned the alleged property.
You Just Borrowed The Alleged Property
One of the elements of a theft crime is the intent of permanently depriving the property. Therefore, for you to face prosecution, the prosecution team must prove before the presiding judge that you wanted to deprive the owner of the property. However, if you or your defense attorney provide evidence that the property owner gave you the right to borrow the item, then you will have a compelling defense.
You Engaged In The Crime Due To Police Entrapment
Entrapment is another legal defense you may apply to fight a theft crime charge. The entrapment defense may work when you were induced to engage in theft by a government official. The officer inducing you must have an aim for you to face arrests and charges for theft crimes. Therefore your criminal defense attorney will use the defense if the purpose or idea of stealing arises from the entrapment party.
You Committed The Crime Under The Duress
Duress isn't a justification for committing a theft crime, but it serves as an excuse. You may argue that you committed the crime because you were facing a threat of harm or their family was under threat. For example, if someone threatens you with violence, you may argue you committed the crime due to duress. Note that the defense must establish that a reasonable person in your hands may also have committed the crime. Lastly, you may argue you had no other alternative rather than committing the crime.
You Lacked Any False Pretense
The defense applies to only certain types of theft charges. For instance, in a shoplifting crime, the prosecutor needs to prove the defendant misrepresented herself or himself to steal property or money. In case a part of your theft crime involves you misrepresenting yourself, you may use the defense to argue you did not misrepresent yourself. The defense will become a winning strategy when the prosecution team doesn't have enough evidence to prove you have a pretense. Therefore if the prosecution team has insufficient evidence, the criminal court may consider dropping your charges.
You Had No Knowledge The Alleged Goods Were Stolen
Anybody may face theft charges for accepting or buying goods stolen from someone else. For example, you are a pawn shop owner and purchase goods knowingly the goods were stolen by someone else. Therefore you will be guilty of theft even if you were not involved in the theft case by yourself. However, the prosecution team will need to prove that you had actual knowledge the goods you purchased were stolen when you took possession. With your criminal defense attorney, you may argue that you had no essential knowledge the goods you purchased were stolen from someone else. Therefore the criminal court will consider dropping your charges.
You were Mistaken With Another Person
You may apply the defense of identity in the incident where the alleged crime wasn't recorded. With your criminal attorney's help, you may argue you were not the suspect of the offense, and the law enforcement officers mistakenly arrested them. Notably, you may provide corroborative evidence. For instance, you might not have committed the crime since you were at different places when the alleged crime occurred. Therefore the criminal court will drop your charges.
You Suffered Mental Disorder (Insanity)
Mental disorder is another defense you may apply in a theft crime. Your defense attorney may argue before the criminal court that you engaged in the theft crime due to a mental disorder. According to the criminal laws, a person should not be held responsible for committing a theft crime when he/she is suffering a mental disorder. Therefore, your criminal attorney will provide evidence you were suffering a mental illness when the alleged crime occurred. Then the criminal court will drop the charges against you.
Statute of Limitation
The statute of limitation is another defense in a theft case. After an occurrence of a crime, the law requires the prosecutor to file charges before the time allowed by the law lapses. Note that the time limit will vary depending on the type of theft crime committed, the jurisdiction, and the circumstances surrounding the case.
For example, if the limitation period for a theft crime is three years and the prosecutor files the charges after four years, the defendant has the right to ask the court to dismiss the case. Unless the prosecutor provides an exception, the presiding judge should dismiss the case. In several jurisdictions, the defendant is required to raise the statute of limitation at the trial level. Since the criminal laws are complicated, you need to hire an experienced attorney who will help you apply the defense.
Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me
The consequences of a theft crime may be harsh and sometimes alter your future. Additionally, the penalties differ depending on the type of theft crime, the circumstances surrounding the case, and your criminal records. If you or your loved one faces a theft charge in San Fernando Valley & Los Angeles, The Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel is here to help. Our attorneys will evaluate your case and build a strong defense strategy. Time is of the essence when it comes to fighting your criminal charge. Call us today at 818-582-2350, and schedule your initial consultation.