Theft Charges in NSW

Theft Charges in NSW

Theft Charges in NSW

Larceny charges in NSW is a serious offence and may result in imprisonment. If charged with a theft or larceny offence, a person must seek advice from expert criminal lawyers to obtain the best possible outcome.

Find out more about theft and larceny offences in NSW, the penalties, options for defence and factors that the court may consider.

Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Stealing or Theft?

Stealing is simply the act of moving or attempting to move an item (that is capable of being stolen), when it belongs to someone else, or keeping a valuable item with no intention to return it. 

Stealing or theft covers a broad range of offences, that include robbery, fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, armed robbery or receiving stolen property.

Fraudulent activity involves using trickery, false statements or scams to obtain another person’s property. 

Under the law, stealing does not occur when a person takes an item by mistake or if they believe they are legally entitled to the property. Also, it is not an offence to take abandoned property. The court considers that the owner has purposely left the item.

What Is Larceny?

Larceny is the legal term for the basic act of stealing or theft of physical property without the owner’s consent. Larceny is a non violent stealing offence, which is commonly referred to as shoplifting.

Larceny charges are for specific, physical items of value that can be moved or taken away. It does not include information, virtual designs, digital finance or other intangible products.

Larceny is an offence against possession, or simply physically taking something without permission. 

The essential element of a larceny charge is that it does not include violence. Acts of physical violence are categorised under robbery or theft offences.

Larceny offences legislation is contained within the Crimes Act 1900.

Three elements must be satisfied before a person can be found guilty of larceny. The property stolen must belong to someone other than the defendant. The property must have been physically taken away without the owner’s consent. 

Larceny Vs Theft

Both larceny and theft involve the same unlawful act of taking another person’s property, but they are different.

Theft covers several different categories of crimes, such as robbery, which generally involves using threats or physical violence to steal directly from people, or housebreaking offences, which include breaking into a person’s home and stealing property.

Larceny is the simplest offence as it involves the basic act of stealing without any other components, such as violence or housebreaking.

What Are Some Other Stealing Related Offences?

Several other stealing related offences are covered under separate legislation and will incur different penalties under the law. The other offences include the following:

  • Embezzlement – taking money or property that was entrusted and using it for personal use
  • Fraud – stealing from someone by using dishonest acts, trickery, or forged testaments to unlawfully take a person’s property
  • Extortion – a form of blackmail using threats to obtain another person’s property
  • Obtaining – property or money that is not physically taken but obtained in other ways, such as deception

What Happens If You Get Caught Shoplifting In NSW?

Legislation in the NSW Law Enforcement Act 2002 enables a citizen to legally arrest a person when they commit an act of larceny or shoplifting. The citizen is permitted to deliver the offender to their local police station along with any property they have stolen. The citizen may be the shop owner or a security guard, and they may use reasonable force if the offender becomes violent. A person can only be detained in a citizen’s arrest if they are caught committing the offence.

Once at the police station, the offender will be detained in the custody of a police officer and may be charged with shoplifting.

An offender may be charged with the offence of larceny after the event if reasonable evidence, such as CCTV footage, suggests that they have committed the crime.

What Options Are Available When Facing A Larceny Charge In Court?

When a person is charged with larceny, their lawyer may enact one of the following options for their client.

  1. Engage in negotiations with the prosecution to downgrade or withdraw the charge or amend the facts surrounding the case.
  2. Plead not guilty and commence proceedings to defend the case in court.
  3. Plead guilty and attempt to convince the court to consider an alternative penalty which does not include a criminal conviction, such as a section 10 or community service order.

Pleading Not Guilty

When charged with stealing offences, a person has several options if they plead not guilty. 

The following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution, and if they can not, the offender must be found not guilty, and the charges dismissed.

The mental elements, or state of mind of the defendant at the time of committing the crime, will be assessed, and evidence must reflect the following:

  • The offender intended to permanently deprive the owner of their property and use it like it was their own
  • The offender did not have a legal claim of right to the property
  • The offender had dishonest or fraudulent intentions and did not take the property by mistake or by accident

The prosecution must also prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The property did not belong to the offender
  • The offender took and carried the property away
  • Property was taken without the consent of the owner
  • By taking the property, the offender intended to permanently deprive the owner of the item

Defences For A Larceny Charge

Several defences may be valid for a larceny charge. The court may impose a more lenient sentence for a first time offender with no prior criminal record. 

When the following defences can be proven, court charges may be dismissed.

Under Duress

When the property is stolen due to psychological pressure, threats, stress or whilst in an inebriated state. The court may be more lenient if the defendant takes steps to rehabilitate.

Necessity

When the property is stolen to avoid dire consequences, such as to prevent a future catastrophe, avoid imminent peril, or protect an individual. 

Self Defence

When the property is stolen to protect the offender from physical harm, such as stealing a vehicle to escape a dangerous situation.

Claim Of Right

When the property is stolen because the defendant has a genuine belief that they have a right to the property and a legitimate claim of ownership or legal entitlement. The person may take an item in good faith with honest intentions.

No Dishonesty 

When the property is stolen but it was an honest or reasonable mistake, for example, a person accidentally taking property that does not belong to them or mistakenly believing they had consent from the owner.  

Pleading Guilty

Pleading guilty to a larceny charge can reflect favourably on the verdict, as it demonstrates that the defendant has feelings of remorse for the crime. 

It is crucial to seek expert legal advice from an experienced criminal lawyer to help ensure the best possible outcome. A lawyer may be able to convince the court to issue an alternative penalty for their client, especially if they are a first time offender or if their circumstances impacted their actions. 

What If You Are A First Time Offender?

A court may choose a more lenient sentence for first time offenders with no criminal record. They will consider the value of the stolen property, and the circumstances surrounding the crime. An experienced lawyer specialising in criminal law can argue the case and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

When a person has a criminal record, particularly a larceny charge, it can negatively impact their life. It indicates that a person may not be trustworthy, and employers may be apprehensive about hiring someone with a criminal history. It can also negatively impact their career choices as they will no longer be eligible to apply for some positions, such as working with children, security or the police force. 

A preferred penalty for a first time offender is to receive a Section 10, which means no conviction will appear on their criminal record. 

What Is The Punishment For Theft In New South Wales?

Legislation contained in the Crimes Act 1900 states the penalties for larceny. Penalties may differ depending on the value of the property stolen and where the matter is heard.

Local Court

If the matter is heard in a Local Court, the penalty is decided based on the property value. If the value does not exceed $5000, the maximum penalty is up to 12 months imprisonment and a fine of $5500.

District Court 

If the offence is heard in the District Court, the maximum penalty of five years imprisonment may apply depending on the circumstances.

In some cases, such as a first time offence, the court may impose a Section 10, which means that no conviction is recorded, no penalty and no criminal record.

Alternative Penalties For Larceny

Several alternative penalties may be imposed for a larceny offence, including the following:

  • Fine
  • Community Service Order
  • Intensive Correction Order
  • Section 10 – no conviction on record
  • Section 9 – good behaviour bond
  • Home Detention
  • Section 12 – suspended sentence

What Factors Will The Court Consider?

The court will consider several factors when deciding the penalty for a larceny offence. They must determine the seriousness of the offence and consider the defendant’s circumstances.

Objective factors to determine the seriousness of the offence may include any of the following:

  • The value of the property stolen, the lower the value, the less serious the crime
  • The item that was stolen, for example, when a person steals items of need, such as food and clothing, they may be given more leniency than materialistic items, such as designer watches or jewellery.
  • The planning of the crime. If the crime was well planned and took time to prepare, the court will consider that the offenders had more time to consider their actions. As opposed to a crime committed on impulse.
  • If the item stolen was for personal use or to sell for a profit, the latter being a more serious offence.
  • If the offender acted alone, or as a part of a group, individual offenders are less serious than groups as they do not require high levels of sophistication or planning.

The court will also consider the defendant’s circumstances when deciding a penalty, including some of the following factors::

  • Is the charge a first offence?
  • The age and maturity of the defendant
  • Financial circumstances
  • Their upbringing and family circumstances
  • Education and employment
  • Mental health
  • Remorse or rehabilitative steps taken

Do You Need A Lawyer For Larceny Offences?

If charged with stealing offences, a person must obtain advice from experts in criminal law. Lawyers specialising in larceny charges are more likely to secure the best outcome for theft charges. 

Stealing offences, when convicted, can appear on a National Criminal History check, which may impact future employment, housing and lifestyle.

As well as possessing a thorough knowledge of the law, experienced solicitors can effectively argue in court for a more lenient sentence to avoid a criminal conviction. 

Summary

Stealing or theft covers a broad range of offences including robbery, fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, armed robbery or receiving stolen property.

Larceny is the legal term for the basic act of stealing or theft of physical property without the consent of the owner. 

Larceny is a non violent stealing offence more commonly referred to as shoplifting. Larceny charges are for specific, physical items of value that can be moved or taken away. It does not include information, virtual designs, digital finance or other intangible products.

Legislation contained in the Crimes Act 1900 states the penalties for larceny, and penalties may differ depending on the value of the property stolen and where the matter is heard.

If the matter is heard in a Local Court, the penalty is decided based on the property value. If the matter is heard in the District Court, the maximum penalty of five years imprisonment may apply, depending on the circumstances.

Three elements must be satisfied before a person can be found guilty of larceny. The property stolen must belong to someone other than the defendant, the property must have been physically taken away, without the owner’s consent.

If charged with stealing offences, a person must obtain advice from experts in criminal law.

Several defences may be valid for a larceny charge, such as the claim of right, self-defence or necessity. 

A court may impose a more lenient sentence for a first time offender with no prior criminal record. Lawyers specialising in larceny charges can help to obtain the best possible outcome and avoid a criminal conviction.

FAQs

What Is The Penalty For Theft In NSW?

Legislation contained in the Crimes Act 1900 states the penalties for stealing offences, and penalties may differ depending on the value of the property stolen and where the matter is heard. When deciding the penalty for a larceny offence, the court will also consider several factors, such as personal circumstances and the seriousness of the offence.

If the offence is heard in the District Court, the maximum penalty of five years imprisonment may apply, depending on the circumstances.

If the matter is heard in a Local Court, the penalty is decided based on the property value. If the value does not exceed $5000, the maximum penalty is up to 12 months imprisonment and a fine of $5500.

What Is Common Law Larceny In NSW?

Under common law, larceny has three elements that must be satisfied before a person is charged with the offence.

The property stolen must belong to someone other than the defendant. The property must have been physically taken away, without the consent of the rightful owner. 

The elements stated must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution, and if they can not, the offender must be found not guilty, and the charges dismissed.

What Happens If You Get Caught Shoplifting In NSW?

In New South Wales, legislation states that a citizen has the legal right to arrest a person if they are caught shoplifting. The citizen must deliver the offender to the police station, where they will be taken into custody by a police officer and likely charged. 

A person can only be detained in a citizen’s arrest if they are caught committing the offence.

An offender may be charged with the offence of larceny after the event if reasonable evidence, such as CCTV footage, suggests that they have committed the crime.

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