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Defending against theft charges

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2023 | Criminal Law | 0 comments

Theft is perhaps one of the most common property crimes in the U.S., with millions of incidents a year. The penalties and sentences for theft can range from minor to severe. Although each individual case is unique,  if you’re facing theft charges, there are several defenses that could help you avoid a conviction.

Lack of intent

Lack of intent is a common defense used in theft cases. It is a legal principle that the defendant did not intend to commit theft. In other words, they did not intend to steal or deprive the owner of their property.

For example, if you accidentally take an item from a store without realizing it. You may have absent-mindedly placed it in your pocket or bag and left the store without paying. Another example is when you mistakenly believe you have a right to take a disputed piece of property you think was taken from you.

To successfully use the defense of lack of intent, you must provide evidence that you did not intend to commit theft. This evidence may include witness statements, surveillance footage or other evidence supporting your claim.


Duress is a legal defense that you may use against a theft charge if you can convince the court that you were compelled to commit the crime due to the fear of considerable damage or death to yourself or others.

However, duress can be a tough defense. Here, you must demonstrate that the threat of harm was imminent. So, to successfully use the duress defense, it should be apparent that you had no reasonable means of escape except to commit theft.

Note that duress is different from coercion. While coercion involves pressure or threats to persuade someone to do something, duress consists of a threat of physical harm or death. Also, the duress defense is not available in cases where the defendant was negligent or reckless or where they could have avoided the situation that led to the threat.

Mistaken identity

Mistaken identity is a common defense used in criminal cases where a defendant is accused of a crime they did not commit. This defense is particularly common in cases where a witness has identified the wrong person as the perpetrator of a crime. Mistaken identity can also occur when the defendant is not the person who committed the crime but rather someone who strongly resembles the culprit.

Here, your defense will typically argue that the court inaccurately identified you as the culprit due to several factors, such as poor lighting, a stressful or chaotic situation, or the use of suggestive identification techniques by law enforcement.

Whether you are accused of retail theft, theft by deception or another form of theft, the consequences of a conviction can be severe. By understanding your legal options and mounting a strong defense, you can increase your chances of a successful outcome and minimize the impact of a conviction on your life.



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