Law & Legal

Defenses You Can Use When Facing A Theft Charge

In 2022, about 4.67 million reported cases of larceny theft occurred in the United States, and around eight-in-ten motor vehicle thefts (80.9%) were reported to police, making them by far the most commonly reported property crime.

The main thing about theft is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property. Even borrowing or taking someone’s property without permission constitutes theft, even if you want to return it. Returning stolen property may reduce sentencing, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent prosecution or conviction.

Theft crime law

Theft crime lawyer Marc Gibbons says that in theft cases, prosecutors can still bring charges based on evidence or witness testimony. Meaning, that even if there is a lack of surveillance footage or eyewitnesses, it doesn’t mean that the case will be dismissed. Attorneys can challenge evidence, question the credibility of witnesses, or negotiate plea bargains, even in cases of apparent guilt.

Learn more about the common defense used to challenge a theft charge. This is necessary for making a solid defense, and it might help shift the narrative in your favor.

Lack of Intent Defense

If you didn’t have the intention to commit theft, you may have a strong defense against theft charges. Lack of intent as defense can help you in situations where it’s clear that you didn’t have any plans to steal. For this defense to be effective, you must be able to demonstrate that you lacked the specific intent to permanently deprive someone of their property.

To prove lack of intent, you can provide evidence such as your actions leading up to the alleged theft, your behavior at the time of the incident, and any misunderstandings that may have occurred. For example, if you picked up an item thinking it belonged to you or if you had permission to use it, this lack of intent could potentially clear you of theft charges.

Lack of intent must be genuine and backed up by credible evidence. Consulting with a legal professional who specializes in theft cases can help you determine the best way to present this defense effectively.

Mistaken Identity Defense

When facing theft charges, asserting a Mistaken Identity Defense can be a compelling strategy to challenge the allegations against you. This defense hinges on the argument that you weren’t the person who committed the theft but were mistaken for someone else.

To support this defense, you may present evidence such as alibis, witness testimonies, or surveillance footage showing that you were elsewhere at the time of the alleged theft. If the accuser or witnesses misidentified you due to factors like poor lighting or distance, this can further strengthen your defense.

Collect as much evidence as possible to prove that you weren’t involved in the theft and that there was a case of mistaken identity. This defense strategy can raise doubts about your involvement in the crime and potentially secure a favorable outcome in your theft case.

Claim of Right Defense

Asserting a Claim of Right Defense can argue that you genuinely believed you have a legal right to the property you’re accused of taking, even if that belief was mistaken. To use this defense successfully, you must demonstrate that your belief was honest and reasonable under the circumstances. For instance, if someone entrusted you with an item and later reported it stolen, you could argue that you believed you still had a right to possess it. But if you acquired the property through deceit or coercion, this defense may not apply.

When presenting a Claim of Right Defense, it’s important to gather evidence supporting your belief in the rightful ownership of the property. This may include communications, agreements, or any other documentation that led you to believe you were entitled to the item. An effective use of this defense strategy can potentially sway the court in your favor by showing that your actions weren’t driven by criminal intent but rather by a genuine misunderstanding of the situation.

Entrapment Defense

Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces or persuades someone to commit a crime they wouldn’t have otherwise committed. In the context of theft charges, this defense asserts that the accused only committed the theft because they were coerced or enticed by law enforcement or another person.

To successfully use the entrapment defense, you must demonstrate that you weren’t predisposed to committing the theft. This means proving that you didn’t have any intent or willingness to steal before the alleged entrapment. Evidence such as lack of past criminal behavior related to theft and the nature of the persuasion used by law enforcement can support your entrapment defense. Note that simply providing an opportunity to commit a crime doesn’t constitute entrapment. The key factor is the level of coercion or inducement involved.

Duress Defense

This defense argues that you were forced or coerced into committing the theft under the threat of imminent harm or danger. To successfully use the Duress Defense, you must demonstrate that you reasonably believed you’d face serious harm if you didn’t engage in the theft. This defense shifts the focus from your intent to the circumstances that led to the crime.

When presenting a Duress Defense, you must prove that there was a direct threat of harm that coerced you into committing the theft. Show that the threat was immediate and credible, leaving you with no reasonable alternative but to comply with the demands. Providing evidence such as witness testimonies or documentation supporting the existence of the threat can strengthen your case.


When facing a theft charge, you must consider all possible defenses to protect your rights and innocence. Whether it’s lack of intent, mistaken identity, claim of right, entrapment, or duress, each defense can help strengthen your case and possibly lead to a more favorable outcome.

By understanding and utilizing these defenses, you can effectively defend yourself against theft allegations and work towards clearing your name.

Samantha Paul is an accomplished financial advisor and a experience writer at She has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in helping individuals and businesses navigate the complex world of finance. With a strong commitment to empowering her clients and guiding them towards financial success, Samantha has built a reputation for delivering personalized, results-driven strategies.