When Does Borrowing Become Stealing?

Odds are you’ve borrowed something and forgotten to give it back.

While pens, lighters, and books are one thing, keeping something that’s worth a considerable amount can get you in trouble.

However, from a legal perspective, in order to be accused of stealing, or theft, it must be proven that you had the intent to never return the item to its rightful owner.

Role of Intent

Under criminal law, the intent to commit a criminal act is known as “mens rea.” This is one of the key elements that the prosecution must establish in order to convict you of theft.

Among this criminal intent, there exist different degrees, including:

  • Specific intent: You committed an act with specific intent or purpose
  • General intent: Your act was not an accident
  • Strict liability: You committed a crime, regardless of intent

A criminal theft charge, or larceny, generally requires the specific intent to deprive another person of their property for life. Let’s say you simply forgot to return a computer to its rightful owner, then there’s a lack of intent to steal the item.

Much more credible evidence is needed in order for the prosecution to establish guilt.

Burden of Proof

Prosecutors must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had no intention to return the borrowed item. An example of proof could be a text message to a friend claiming that you intended to keep an item.

Even if you did intend on keeping an item, the burden of proof is often very difficult to overcome. If you constantly ignore requests to return an item, and there are no incriminating text messages, how can they prove you stole it?

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Today!

If you’ve borrowed someone’s property and had issues returning it, you may be charged with theft. However, without evidence of intent, a prosecutor may be unable to prove the charge.

If you have questions about theft and borrowing, contact our Clearwater theft crimes lawyers Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A. today.

Call (727) 245-9009 or contact us online for a free consultation.