Stealing is the term used to describe a broad range of offences in Queensland and includes the term “theft” which is widely used in other legal systems. The definition of stealing is broad enough to include many different situations from shoplifting to stealing from an employer. You should always seek legal representation for a stealing charge as the consequences, including the recording of a conviction, is potentially so severe and can have a serious and ongoing effect on your future.
What is stealing?
The offence of stealing can only be committed with regard to things “capable of being stolen.” The things capable of being stolen are the things which are moveable, or which can be made moveable. Immoveable things such as land and buildings cannot be stolen. Our Criminal Code specifies two ways in which this offence can be committed;
- Fraudulently taking anything capable of being stolen, or
- Fraudulently converting anything capable of being stolen to one’s own use or the use of somebody else.
The bad faith, as expressed by the term “fraudulently” is central to the offence. Therefore, a person who takes property belonging to somebody else in good faith cannot be said to have stolen. The person is deemed to take or convert anything fraudulently in the following situations;
- Where the intention of the person is to permanently deprive the owner of the thing of it;
- Where the intention of the person is to permanently deprive any person who has any special right or interest in the thing, such as a lien or its possession;
- Where the intention of the person is to use it as a pledge or security;
- Where the intention of the person is to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be returned in the condition in which it was at the time of the taking or conversion;
- If the thing concerned is money, where the person intends to use the money although they hopes to repay the amount to the owner later.
The prosecution has to prove that;
- The thing alleged to have been stolen is capable of being stolen,
- There was a taking or conversion of that thing, and
- The offender did not have the owner’s consent.
What court will hear my matter?
Stealing matters are most commonly dealt with in the Magistrates Court. If however the value of the alleged theft is high it may be dealt with in the District Court.
What legislation contains the charge of stealing?
Section 391 of the Criminal Code (Qld) contains in the charge of stealing in Queensland.
What is the penalty for stealing?
The maximum sentence is 5 years imprisonment but if violence or threats of violence are involved, the amount is more than $5,000 or the stealing is from a person’s employer then the maximum penalty can increase to up to 14 years.
What types of stealing charges exist?
Stealing is a general term for many types of stealing offences including;
What is stealing as an employee?
Stealing as an employee or stealing as a servant is a serious offence in Queensland. The Courts in Queensland have traditionally been very harsh on people who have stolen items or money from an employer. A person convicted of this offence will often receive a criminal conviction which would affect their future job prospect but also in many cases receive a prison sentence. When it comes to employee thefts, the offence is more serious than other stealing charges because the offender not only commits a stealing offence but is also taken to have breached the trust given to them by their employer. The situations of employee theft can fall into 3 broad categories;
- Direct theft of inventory, products, or cash
Employees are frequently found to have taken cash from the registers or other valuable goods. It is still possible to be charged with an offence even if you have returned the money or the goods to your employer if a complaint is made.
- Manipulation of company records
There are cases where the employees are charged for manipulating the company’s records. The employees, who have access to company’s records, may forge the cheques and bills for personal benefit, create ghost payroll entries, and destroy documents so that the lost shipment cannot be traced. The employees may grant discounts or even free offers to their friends who will later share the profit with them. This also amounts to an employee theft.
- Theft of information for sale to others or for direct use
Some protected personal data such as credit card info can easily be converted to money.
Considering the severity of the sentence and the impact a conviction may have on the future career, the best thing you can do is to retain a lawyer with experience in these types of charges. A person should also make no admissions or comments to Police without first obtaining legal advice, this is critical for the future conduct of a case.
We have a full article on stealing as a servant that explains more.
What is shoplifting?
Stealing items from a shop (shoplifting) is one of the more common charges Queensland magistrate courts deal with on a day to day basis.
There are actually two different charges under Queensland law for shoplifting, that is shoplifting if the alleged theft involved good less than $150 or stealing where the goods are alleged to have cost more than $150.
The penalty depends on a number of factors including
- The value of the good shoplifted
- Whether the items were returned
- If the items were returned whether they were in good and saleable condition
- The defendants criminal history
No conviction can be recorded if the amount stolen was under $150 but if the amount exceeds that then a conviction can be recorded.
We have a full article on shoplifting that explains more.
How is robbery charge different to a stealing charge?
Stealing, which is defined as fraudulent taking or a conversion of a movable property to a person’s use, when committed with violence, becomes a robbery. The prosecution has to establish in court that the alleged person stole a thing, with actual use of violence or threatening to use violence, on one of the following occasions;
- Before the stealing
- After the stealing
- Right at the moment when the stealing is being committed.
Violence can be used to any person or property, therefore the person to whom violence is directed at need not to be the owner of the property which is being stolen. It has to be proven in court that violence was real and that violence was used in order to obtain the thing stolen or to prevent or overcome the resistance. It is irrelevant whether the thing stolen is valuable or not. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, the maximum penalty can be either 14 years or imprisonment for life. In the latter case, the prosecution has to prove that at the time of the commission of the crime;
- the offender was armed with or pretended to be armed with a dangerous or offensive weapon or instrument,
- he/she was in company with one or more persons, or
- he/she wounded or used any other personal violence to any person.
Robbery is considered to be an indictable offence, and therefore it is dealt with in the District Court.
Are there any defence to a stealing charge?
Some possible defences might include;
- the person taking the item had the permission of the owner
- the person taking the item mistakenly thought they had the permission of the owner
- the item is not capable of being stolen
- the item is subject to a civil dispute
Do I need a lawyer?
Do not attempt to represent yourself in the court on a stealing charge. If the amount stolen is less than $150 and no violence was involved or it wasn’t stolen from an employer then you might not need a lawyer but in all other cases you should get legal representation. If the court records a conviction against you it may affect your ability to travel internationally and to gain employment.
Engaging Clarity Law to act for you
Engaging us gives you the best chance at obtaining the lowest penalty or avoiding a jail sentence if this is not your first offence. We are one of the leading criminal law firms in South East Queensland. We appear every week in the courts with people charged with stealing, it is this experience that allows us to get the best result for clients. Other law firms simply don’t have the experience that we do and don’t know the judges like we do. Just some of the benefits of us acting for you include;
- we know the judges and what they want to hear to give you the best outcome
- we have good relationships with the prosecutors meaning we can often have them not seek a jail sentence
- we are there to help you through the process and make everything as stress free as possible, in most cases you will not have to say anything in court
- engaging us shows the court you are taking your charges seriously
- your matter will be heard early, often first, you do not have to wait for 20-30 other matters to be heard before you
- you will be fully informed of what is to happen in court and what this means for you after court
- unlike the police or the Judge, we are there to look after you, your privacy and your interests
What courts do you appear in?
We appear in every court in South East Queensland. Just some of the courts we appear in for stealing are;
For a full list of Courts we appear in click here.
Will I need to come in to the office to see you?
We have offices in Brisbane, Ipswich, Brendale, Loganholme and on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coasts but in most cases we can handle everything by email and the phone without you ever having to come into our office. We are also open outside normal business hours for your convenience.
What do you charge?
We charge a flat upfront fee for our services that means no hidden charges or unexpected bills.
We are also upfront with our fees, if you look at other law firms few, if any, clearly list how much they are going to charge you. Clarity Law on the other hand are happy to list our prices as we are sure no other South East Queensland law firm can match our prices and experience. Our prices include;
- full preparation for court including checking for defences and devising strategy to minimise penalty
- negotiations with the police prosecution unit including obtaining criminal history and charge documents
- drafting submissions for the court
- all telephone calls, faxes emails and meetings with you
- detailed information to you on the likely penalty and information on what will happen at court and afterwards
- appearing in the court with you to conduct your guilty plea
To see what we will for a guilty plea on a stealing charge click here
How do I get more information or engage you to act for me?
If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;
- Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you
- Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm