What Are the Possible Defenses in Theft, Robbery, and Burglary Cases?

Each theft, robbery, and burglary case is unique and the best type of defense to present will vary depending on the facts of the particular case. That said, there are a few typical defenses.

A common defense in shoplifting theft cases is ignorance. It’s not uncommon for two people to go shopping together and for one of them to shoplift items without the other person knowing about it. Often the innocent person, who may never have even touched an item, will be charged as a “lookout” for the shoplifter. You’ll often see this with parents and their juvenile children. The parent won’t be paying attention and not notice that their kid is shoplifting, they exit the store together, and they’re both charged with theft.

Another possible defense in shoplifting cases is mistake. Sometimes people just forget to pay for things when they leave a store, whether because they’re tired, distracted, or suffering the side effects of a prescription medication.

For a possession of stolen goods theft case, the most common defense is that you didn’t know the goods were stolen. The strength of this defense depends on what goods you bought, who you bought them from, and the circumstances of the sale. Fortunately, possession of stolen goods cases are usually difficult for the state to prove.

One defense available to all theft cases is a valuation defense, that is, the value of the stuff that was taken is less than what the state says it is. While this defense won’t ever result in a dismissal of charges, it can dramatically reduce the punishment range you’re facing. People often value their property at what they originally paid for it years ago, not what it’s worth now.

A less common, but still valuable defense in certain theft cases is that you had permission to take the property or that the property was actually yours. You’ll see this most often in cases where two people have had an angry breakup. An ex-girlfriend might call the police to claim that her ex-boyfriend took a watch from her when the watch was a gift, or stole a TV from their shared apartment when he was the one that actually bought the TV.

For robbery cases, a common defense is mistaken identity. The victim or witness may not have gotten a good look at the robber and mistakenly pointed you out. We now know from DNA evidence and academic studies that witness misidentification happens all the time.

Another possible defense in a robbery case is that the alleged victim is making it up in order to get the other person in trouble. For example, sometimes two people will get into a fight. The loser of the fight—rather than owning up to the fact that they lost—will call the police and claim that they were beaten up and robbed. Because the loser has visible injuries (and never mention that he got into a fight, usually over something stupid), the police are inclined to believe that the loser was robbed.

In burglary cases, a common defense is “mere presence.” Burglaries are often committed by groups of people, usually teenagers. There’s typically a ringleader who wants to commit the burglary and convinces the other kids to come along. The ringleader will break into the house or building and take an active role in stealing things while some of the other kids just watch. The nonparticipating kids are guilty of trespassing, but aren’t guilty of burglary because they’re not doing anything to help. This defense can be difficult to prove, though, if everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else.

These are just a couple of possible defenses available in theft, robbery, and burglary cases. Depending on the facts of your case, there are plenty of others. The only way to know what defense, if any, is best for you is to call me so we can talk about your case.

For more information on Possible Defenses in Theft, Robbery, and Burglary Cases, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (713) 936-4521 today.

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