Defenses to Theft Crimes

Respected Maricopa County Criminal Defense Attorney Aggressively Standing Up for the Rights of the Accused

Theft crimes are one of the most commonly charged offenses in Arizona. Whether you face charges related to the theft of personal property or services, it is important to keep in mind that you are innocent until proven guilty. You should never give up hope until you’ve met with an Arizona criminal defense attorney to discuss all the possible defenses to theft crimes. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we have more than 25 years of experience aggressively defending the rights of clients charged with all types of theft crimes. We are immediately available to meet with you to discuss how we can help you beat your case.

What Does the Government Need to Prove in a Theft Case?

Theft is a crime that everyone is familiar with. From a young age, we’re taught not to take another child’s toy. However, the legal definition of theft is very specific. In Arizona, all theft crimes require the government to prove that you had the specific intent to steal. Specific intent is when you intend the outcome of your actions. For theft crimes, you must have the desire to deprive another person of their property at the time you took it.

Because theft is a specific intent crime, it opens the door to a variety of different defenses.

What Are the Most Common Defenses to Theft Crimes?

If you’re charged with a Maricopa County theft crime, it’s easy to give up hope, especially if police found another’s possessions in your control. However, before you can be convicted, the government must prove you intended to steal something that didn’t belong to you. There are a variety of defenses to theft crimes, including:

It Was an Accident

If you can prove that you did not mean to take another’s property, you cannot be guilty of theft. Certainly, this is easier said than done because the government can rely on circumstantial evidence of your intent to steal. For example, Arizona law allows for jurors to presume that someone who conceals an item and then walks out of a store intended to steal that item. Thus, to overcome this, you will need to convince the jurors that the presumption doesn’t apply. However, claiming that a theft was an accident is still a viable defense in many shoplifting and retail theft cases. For example, if you had money on you at the time or purchased other goods, it may be convincing evidence that you merely forgot to pay for the allegedly stolen item.

It Was My Property

One of the elements of any theft crime is that you took property that was not yours. Thus, if the property the government claims you stole was actually yours, you can’t be convicted of a crime. Of course, in cases where proof of ownership is clear, you probably wouldn’t have been arrested in the first place. Thus, when this defense comes up, it is usually because there is a dispute about who owned the property.

I Thought I Had Permission

Because theft crimes require the specific intent to steal, if you honestly thought that you had the owner’s permission to take or use their property, you can’t be convicted of a theft crime. Importantly, this defense doesn’t require you have actual permission (if you did, you wouldn’t be charged with a crime), but allows you to argue that you had a good-faith belief that you were entitled to use the property despite that not being the case.

Are You Facing Arizona Theft Charges?

If you are charged with an Arizona theft offense, reach out to the Law Office of James E. Novak for immediate assistance. At our Maricopa County criminal defense firm, we command an impressive knowledge of all the defenses to theft crimes and can help you determine which defenses apply to your case. We also offer free consultations to answer your questions and provide you with an overview of our theft defense strategies. We also represent clients facing robbery, burglary, and fraud charges. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak today, call 480-413-1499.