Theft charges are serious accusations. Theft, which is taking something that does not belong to you without the permission of the rightful owner, is punishable by as many as 10 years in prison if the value of the property stolen is more than $5,000. Even if the property stolen is less than $5,000, the penalty may still range to as many as two years in prison.
Either way, the penalty is steep, and you do not want to pay the price for either level of punishment.
That is especially true if you have defences to a theft accusation. Legally speaking, two broad categories of defences apply specifically to theft charges. They are:
- Colour of right: This defence is based on the contention that you actually had the right to possess the property you are accused of stealing. A colour of right defence can apply when you paid for the property or if the former owner gave you the property. In both instances, colour of right is a question of fact that the evidence must prove.
- Honest but mistaken belief: To use this defence, you must show that you mistakenly believed that the property was yours, or that you forgot you were in possession of the property. Obviously, once again, this defence is a question of fact that the evidence must support.
Many General Legal Defences Can Apply to Theft Charges
While those defences are specific to theft, other, more generalized defences apply to many crimes, but still apply in cases of theft. Many of these defences rely upon a lack of men's rea. This term refers to the legal concept that the accused intended to commit the crime of which the person is accused. You must have the requisite mental state to commit the crime—men's rea—for the Crown to find you guilty.
A number of defences address the potential lack of mens rea. They include:
- Automatism: This defence requires involuntary conduct, meaning the accused had no conscious control over the allegedly criminal actions. This requires either a mental disorder, such as temporary insanity, or a non-mental disorder, such as a physical blow that caused damage that prevented the accused from understanding the actions of committing the crime. The former is extraordinarily difficult to prove. The latter is simply rare.
- Consent: This can defend against theft charges if the owner of the property in question consented to the accused taking or borrowing it. If you raise consent as a defence, the Crown must show an absence of consent.
- Duress or compulsion: This defence is limited by the requirement that the accused show that the duress happened when the crime occurred. Evidence would include such things as provable threats of death or bodily harm should the accused refuse to commit the theft in question.
Other defences are even less common and harder to prove, such as entrapment, insanity, necessity, mistake of fact, mistake of law, and intoxication (the latter of which generally is not a defence to a criminal charge). These are less common because they are harder to prove. Nonetheless, they remain among the potential defences to theft charges that might apply to your case. Consult a lawyer to determine if these or other defences apply.
If You Face Theft Charges in the Calgary Area, You May Have Defences. Contact the Lawyers of Bourdon Defence
While theft charges carry serious consequences, you may have defences available to you. These legal defences can help you beat theft charges, but don’t expect to win your case on your own. You need legal assistance. The lawyers of Bourdon Defense can assist you. Call us at (403) 474-4143 or contact us through our website.