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How to defend yourself against a theft charge

Not all theft accusations are appropriate. Sometimes, people are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or it just appears as if they stole something when they really did not. Regardless of how your theft charges came about, one of the following four theft defense strategies might apply to your circumstances.

Claim that the property belonged to you

Imagine you and a friend have a disagreement about who owns a specific piece of property. You decide to take the property home with you even though there's a disagreement, and your friend calls the police. If you can offer evidence that the property was yours -- perhaps by showing a receipt of purchase -- you will have an excellent criminal defense.

Explain that you were drunk

Imagine you are at a bar and on your way out, you grab someone's cellphone and put it in your pocket because the cellphone looked just like yours. The next thing you know, the police are knocking on your door. If you can explain that you were so drunk that you grabbed the phone by mistake, you might be able to get your charges dropped.

Show that you returned the property

This isn't as good as a defense as the others on this list, but if you returned the property after stealing it, it could bring the sympathy of the court. In many cases, you might have your ultimate penalties reduced if you later returned a stolen item.

Entrapment

The concept of entrapment means that someone lured you into committing a theft crime for the purpose of prosecuting you in criminal court. Entrapment is common and unlawful and it could render your theft charges moot.

You will not be punished or seen as guilty of a theft crime until -- and only if -- the prosecution can prove you to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If you were wrongly accused of a theft crime, you will have a right to a criminal defense.

Source: FindLaw, "Theft Defenses," accessed Jan. 12, 2018

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