Most of us are familiar with the basic concept of theft, which is taking something that you do not own, or have a legal right to use. To clear up a few common misconceptions, first, theft requires intention; accidentally leaving a store without paying for the item that is stuck in the bottom of your cart is not theft. Second, having a legal right means that while you may not own the item outright, you have some claim to it, such as a lease. Third, for the purposes of the Criminal Code, animals kept as pets or livestock are property and if stolen, the crime is theft.
We typically think of theft as permanently taking something that does not belong to us, but according to the Criminal Code, theft can occur in other ways. Temporarily taking something, even if you return it in pristine condition is theft because the true owner is unable to use it for a period. If you pledge or deposit an item that does not belong to you as collateral or security, that is also form of taking what is not legally yours.
There can be circumstances where theft occurs even if the owner initially gives permission to take an item. An owner may be willing to lend out or part with an item temporarily, but if the item is broken or damaged beyond repair while the borrower or holder has it, this can lead to a charge of theft. Additionally, if there are requirements that the owner must comply with in order to get his or her property back, it must be actually possible for the owner to meet the conditions.
The punishment for theft varies depending on the value of the property stolen. If the value of the item stolen is over $5,000, a conviction can carry a sentence of up to ten years in prison. If the item is valued at under $5,000, there is a maximum sentence of up to two years.
There are many different ways to defend against theft charges.Each set of circumstances is unique and a lawyer can help you determine what options are available or assist with presenting your case or negotiating a plea agreement.