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Can I Be Charged with Theft If I Return the Item?

Theft is a serious charge that comes with penalties like fines and jail time depending on the severity of the crime and value of items stolen. However, what happens if you return the item or asset? Can you still face criminal charges? Keep reading to find out.

What Is Theft?

Theft is a category of crimes with different levels of punishment and severity depending on the crime. In general, theft involves taking an item or items from another person’s property or ownership. A person can be accused of theft for stealing a physical item like merchandise from a store or a car or assets like money from a bank account.

Typically, theft is charged by value meaning the value of the item or asset taken is directly related to the harshness of the punishment. For example, shoplifting is generally considered a misdemeanor while stealing a car is a felony punishable by years in prison.

Additionally, the court evaluates intent in addition to collecting evidence. Intent is important because it indicates whether the accused acted maliciously, accidentally, or under pressure from someone else. This is a key detail as it could determine whether a person is tried at all.

Returning an Item

Because intent is such a crucial element to theft cases, returning an item eliminates the chances of prosecution, right?

Unfortunately, returning a stolen item does not cancel out the intent to steal. While returning an item or asset shows remorse, you still stole the item to begin with which means you intended to break the law and proceeded to do so and keep the stolen item until you felt remorse. That is how the prosecution views these matters. To the prosecution, once a person commits a crime, they can be tried in court.

Your Options

If you have returned a stolen item, you still have the right to legal representation in court. Eldridge and Cravens, PC can advocate for your interests and build a case that reflects your remorse. Our exceptional team of legal professionals can help you get the most optimal outcome in your case.

Contact our firm today for more information.