Defenses Against a Theft Charge

Theft refers to a crime of taking another person’s property without their permission or consent. Depending on the severity of the crime and the value of the property, you can be charged either with a misdemeanor or felony. There are many defenses a theft defense attorney may employ to defend against a theft charge.

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Specific Intent

In order to prove theft the defendant had to have specific intent to commit theft. If the prosecution fails to prove that the accused had the required specific intent then he is entitled to a verdict of not guilty.


To prove that theft occurred, the property must be “asported,” or actually carried away. To prove asportation the goods have to be severed from the possession of the owner, the goods are incomplete possession of the thief and the property has been moved. If all three conditions aren’t met, then theft has not occurred.

Claim of Right

If a person actually believes that he or she has a right to the property even if that belief is mistaken or unreasonable, such belief is a defense to theft.

Defendant Actually Owned Property

If the accused actually owns the property, they cannot be charged with theft. The prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the property is not owned by the defendant.

False Pretense

According to Penal Code Section 484, if false pretenses cannot be proven, the defendant cannot be charged with theft by false pretense.

Theft by Trick

If the defendent never used deceit or fraud to obtain property then they cannot be charged with theft by trick.

Theft by Embezzlement

If the accused had permission to use the property for their benefit, whether through bylaws or by anyone who has the power to grant such permission, the defendant cannot be charged with theft by embezzlement.