Criminal Theft vs. Civil Theft

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What Is Criminal Theft?

Criminal theft is a general term used to describe crimes that involve the taking of personal property without the owner's consent. Criminal theft includes:

Criminal theft crimes are prosecuted by the state. If found guilty of theft, a person may receive prison time, fines, or community service as punishment.

What Is Civil Theft?

Civil theft is a tort based on the intentional taking of another person’s property.

Can I Go to Jail If I Am Found Guilty of Civil Theft?

No. A person, called a plaintiff, files a theft lawsuit in civil court to recover money or the stolen property. The individual accused of civil theft, known as the defendant, will be found liable or not liable for the theft. Being found liable means the defendant will have to pay the plaintiff.

No one can be sentenced to prison time for being found liable for civil theft.

How Is Guilt or Liability Proven in Criminal or Civil Theft Cases?

In a criminal case, the state has the burden of proving the defendant guilty by beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that there must be no doubt that the defendant took the property.

However, a plaintiff in a civil trial only has to prove the defendant is liable by a preponderance of the evidence. This means the defendant more than likely took the plaintiff’s property.

Can a Criminal Conviction Influence the Outcome a Civil Lawsuit?

Yes. It is easier for a plaintiff who files a civil lawsuit for theft to be successful when the defendant is found guilty of theft.

Should I Discuss My Case with an Attorney?

A criminal theft charge and a civil theft lawsuit are both serious scenarios. You will need the help of a criminal defense lawyer to handle these cases.

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Last Modified: 12-01-2016 02:45 PM PST

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