Stealing Offences

What To Do When Charged With A Stealing Offence

The police want to speak to me about a stealing offence. Do I have to speak to them?

Please click here to read about your rights when speaking to and being questioned by police.

I have been charged with a stealing offence. How can a lawyer help?

We can advise you about the charge, the court procedure, whether you have a defence and what you may be sentenced to if you are found guilty.

I have been charged with stealing property/money. What happens if I return it?

If you have been charged with stealing property or money, you should speak to a criminal lawyer before doing anything with the property or money in question, even if the police have already seized it.

By returning the property or paying back the money, it may suggest that you are admitting that you should not have taken it in the first place, which may complicate things if you are intending on defending the charge.

The person who has reported the stealing to the police (the complainant) does not necessarily have the final say over whether the police proceed with the charge. It is the decision of the police as to whether or not they will charge you with an offence. If they do decide to charge you, the complainant becomes a witness in the case.

If after speaking to a criminal lawyer you make the informed decision to plead guilty to the charge of stealing, then you should consider whether you can repay the money or return the property as this may help reduce your sentence. You should not contact the complainant directly, as you may be in breach of bail conditions. Your lawyer can speak with the investigating police officer to make contact with the complainant.

Is it stealing if I took something that didn’t belong to me but I intended to give it back?

Stealing generally means that you intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property, but it can also include taking things to use it as security or as a pledge, so it depends on the exact circumstances of the case.

You should speak to a criminal lawyer about the specifics of what occurred so they can advise you whether or not you have a defence.

I have been charged with stealing as a servant. What does this mean?

If you have stolen from your employer or in the course of your employment, you can be charged with stealing as a servant. This charge carries a higher maximum penalty than normal stealing charges because it is considered that there is a breach of trust.

If you are convicted of stealing as a servant, the penalty imposed will depend largely on the following:

  • How much money was stolen/what property was stolen
  • How many times the stealing occurred
  • The period of time over which stealing occurred
  • Whether the stealing was covert
  • Whether the stealing involved any other employees or other people, with or without their knowledge
  • The position of trust you enjoyed in your employment (i.e. you would be in a higher position of trust if you were in charge of the accounts and are charged with stealing money)
  • Whether you tried to cover up the stealing

You should speak to a criminal lawyer about your individual case to obtain advice about the potential consequences and whether you may have a defence to the charge.

What are the penalties for stealing?

The penalty for stealing varies on the value of what was stolen, and who it was stolen from or how it was stolen.

For example, generally, for stealing where the value is under $50,000, the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment and a $24,000 fine, whilst for stealing where the value is over $50,000, the maximum penalty is 7 years.

For certain more serious types of stealing, the maximum penalty is higher. For example, for Stealing as a Servant where the value is over $50,000, the maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment.

For stealing where the value is under $1,000, the maximum penalty is a $6,000 fine.

You should speak to your criminal lawyer about the maximum penalty available for your particular charge.

What will happen in court?

Read more about what happens when going to court in WA.

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