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Elements of Theft

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What Is Theft?

Theft, also known as larceny, can be defined as the wrongful taking and carrying away of the property, such as money or gas, of another with the intent to deprive the person of the property permanently. Theft can be committed in a number of different ways, many of which are described below.

What Are the Elements of Theft?

In order to be properly convicted of theft, all of the following elements must be proven:

  • Wrongful Taking – The property was taken without consent and was unlawful
  • Carrying Away – The property need was moved from where the owner had placed it or intended it to be placed
  • Property of Another – The property must belong to someone other than the thief
  • Intent to Deprive Permanently – The thief intends that the owner not own the property ever again.

It is a defense in most cases of theft if the thief reasonably believed the property belonged to him.

What Are the Types of Theft?

The specific elements needed to prove theft depend on the type of theft committed.

Auto Theft: Theft of a motor vehicle. Motor vehicles include cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, etc.

Petty Theft: The theft of anything with a value less than a specified money amount. In most states, theft of anything under a value of $400 is petty theft. Petty theft is usually a misdemeanor.

Felony Theft: Sometimes also known as grand theft, is theft of anything over a specified value, usually over $400. As indicated by the name, this type of theft is a felony.

Theft by Embezzlement: Embezzlement occurs when you take property that has been entrusted to you. It is necessary that the property be acquired through a relationship of trust, also known as a fiduciary relationship.

Theft by Forced Entry: Theft by forced entry onto a property, such as a house, room, apartment, motor vehicle or tent, is considered burglary. Note that the thief does not have to actually break into the property for it to be burglary. Trespass, entry without consent, is enough to trigger burglary if the trespass was committed to enable theft.

Theft by Force: Theft through the use of force or fear of force is known as robbery. Note that the actual application of force is not required; the victim merely has to be afraid of the thief for the crime to be considered robbery. Robbery may be enhanced, be given extra punishment, if a deadly weapon was used to commit the crime.

Theft by Deception: There are two kinds of theft by deception. One is called false pretenses and the other is known as larceny by trick.

  • False Pretenses - When you deceive someone into giving up possession and ownership of his or her property through some misrepresentation of the truth, such as lying, you have committed the crime of false pretenses. For example, if you lie to someone and tell them that you will pay $5000 for his or her car and they give you the car, with the pink slip, you have committed false pretenses.
  • Larceny By Trick - Unlike false pretenses, to commit larceny by trick all you need is to trick someone into giving possession of his/her property to you. For example, if you just tell a person you want to borrow his or her car, yet you do not intend to return it, you have committed larceny by trick.

Theft By Possession: This occurs when you are in possession of stolen property. In order to be guilty of theft by possession, you must have possession of stolen property, know that it is stolen or have reason to believe it probably was stolen, and meet the other elements of theft.

What Can You Do If You Are Accused of Theft?

If you are accused of theft you should speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses, and the criminal justice system. A criminal defense lawyer has the experience and knowledge to help defend you.

What If I Am a Victim of Theft?

If you are a victim of theft you should call the police. If there is sufficient evidence, the police will forward your case to the Prosecutor’s office to prosecute the person who committed the crime against you.

Photo of page author Gabrielle Hollingsworth

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 11-29-2016 10:10 AM PST

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