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Theft charges may be met with case-specific defenses

It is not uncommon for a Virginia resident to borrow an item of property from a neighbor and to have the full intention to return that property when they are done using it. For example, a person may borrow a wheelbarrow to complete yard work and anticipate that they will return it to their neighbor within the week. If the borrower of the wheelbarrow fails to return it to its owner, a theft as generally not occurred. Even though the borrower kept the wheelbarrow, there is an important element of the crime of theft that is absent from this hypothetical scenario: the intent of the borrower to permanently divest the owner of the property.

Theft involves two elements: the taking of property and the intent to keep it from going back to the owner. The lack of an alleged thief's intent in this respect may be a defense to charges of theft. There are also several other defenses that individuals may be able to use if confronted with serious criminal theft allegations.

First, a person may be able to overcome theft charges if they can show that the property in question was actually theirs and not the property of the alleged owner. As a person cannot steal their own goods, a theft charge cannot stand if there is no impermissible taking. Second, theft charges may be overcome if a person can show that they returned the property in question to its owner. Because theft requires a party to have the intention to permanently deprive the owner of their property, the return of that property defeats this critical element of the charge.

Other defenses may exist to different theft cases. Consultation with a criminal defense attorney may be an important step in preparing for a theft trial and the protection of a person's legal rights.

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