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Can you be charged with theft if you return the item?

On Behalf of | Dec 7, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

If someone steals an item from you in Florida, you may not ever see it again. But if the perpetrator actually returns the item that they stole, can you still press charges, or will you be forced to drop the case? The answer is more complicated than most people realize.

Say that you come home one evening to find that someone has stolen the radio in your garage. You call the police and file a report. The next day, the thief apologizes and returns the radio. Can they still be charged with theft?

If they return the stolen item, you may still be able to press charges. However, you’ll have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this person intended to steal and didn’t plan on returning the item. Intent can be difficult to prove in criminal law court, particularly if you don’t have any evidence either way. If you find evidence that the individual deliberately committed theft, like a text message to one of their friends talking about the theft, you might be able to pursue a case.

However, theft is defined as the act of taking someone’s property without the intention to give it back. Since they gave back the item, you may have a hard time proving that this wasn’t their original intent. At this point, you may want to consult an attorney on the subject.

How might an attorney help you with theft charges?

If you’ve been accused of theft, an attorney may be able to help you clear your name in court. An attorney might be able to create doubt in the jury’s mind that prevents them from convicting you. After all, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and if they can’t prove that you acted deliberately, your attorney may emphasize that in court.