To the average New Yorker, it might seem that theft is a simple act, with a simple defense; either someone took something without permission or they did not. However, there may be an easy—or at least honest—explanation of why you have the item in your possession. Every case is different, but there are several defenses for theft or larceny.
According to FindLaw, if you can show that you meant to return the item even as you took it, you may be able to make a case for intending only to borrow, or perhaps you simply forgot to return it. It is not uncommon to defend against theft charges in this manner.
Sometimes, people will offer to return the item to prevent prosecution or to show remorse. Although its return will not alter the charges, prosecutors may be inclined to work out a plea deal or reduce penalties.
It may sound silly, but intoxication may be a viable defense if you can show that taking the item was just a mistake. When a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may be unable to fashion the intent to steal. For example, if you grab someone else’s purse as you leave a party, you may not have been aware of it if you were inebriated.
If you have been coaxed into stealing something that you would not have taken otherwise, you may be able to claim entrapment. This can happen if the one who entices you suggests the theft, all with the intent is to arrest and prosecute you.
Perhaps you lent something to a friend a long time ago and both of you forgot about it until you saw it again and took it home. This can easily happen when neighbors borrow lawn tools and forget to return them, or maybe it was a pair of designer shoes.
Whether it is an honest mistake, an error or simply reclaiming your property, you may have several reasons for taking something. If you are facing theft or other charges, you may want to consider consulting an experienced defense attorney.
This article is informational only; it should not be considered legal advice.