Do you need a theft and dishonesty lawyer in Melbourne?
The most common dishonesty offence in Victoria is theft. Theft is an indictable offence which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, however, it can be heard summarily in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, which can impose a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.
The criminal offence of theft occurs when a person dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention to permanently deprive that person of their property. The prosecution must prove each of the following five elements:
Appropriation includes assuming any rights of the owner of the property. This includes if a person has innocently found the property but then keeps it and acts as the owner of that property. A person will have ‘assumed the rights’ of an owner if they do something which only the owner has the right to do, such as taking their car for a drive.
A person will not have appropriated property if they obtained consent from the owner. Consent must be real and valid, that is, not obtained by fraud or deception.
The accused must have appropriated ‘property’. Property is defined to include money, real and personal property (e.g. motor vehicles), things in action and intangible property.
Belonging to Another
The appropriated property must have belonged to another person. Property belongs to another if that person has possession or control of it, or a proprietary right or interest in it.
Intention to Permanently Deprive
The accused must have had an intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property at the time of the appropriation. This means that the accused intended to treat the property as their own, regardless of the owner’s rights.
- Motor Vehicles and Aircrafts
Any appropriation of a motor vehicle or aircraft without the consent of the owner, is conclusive evidence that the accused intended to permanently deprive the owner of that property. This includes riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle, with the knowledge that it has been stolen.
Temporary ‘borrowing’ of the owner’s property does not constitute an intention to permanently deprive. However, circumstances of ‘conditional borrowing’ can satisfy the element of intention to permanently deprive, where an accused did not have an intention at the time, but then treats the property as their own to dispose of or use. This includes where an accused takes property and leaves open the possibility of returning the property at a later date, but uses it as their own in the meantime.
The accused must have been acting dishonestly at the time of appropriation. A person is not taken to have acted dishonestly if they held an honest belief that:
- He or she is legally entitled to the property; or
- He or she would have had the owner’s consent; or
- The owner could not be discovered by taking reasonable steps.
Does Joy Riding Count as Theft?
Young persons often yield to the temptation to steal a motor vehicle for a joyride. Many years ago they were able to successfully defend charges of car theft by arguing that they did not have an intention to permanently deprive the owner of the car – they dumped it when they were finished with it. The law was changed to include the notion that treating property as your own constitutes an intention to permanently deprive.
What is Theft By Finding?
An accused person can be guilty of theft in circumstances where they have found property. If property you find is clearly of value, you are not entitled to it in your pocket or carry it home. You must make efforts to find the owner and if unsuccessful, take it to the police station.