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The importance of intent in a theft charge

A theft may occur when a person takes from another individual an item of theirs and does not intend to return it to them. In Tennessee, thefts happen with some regularity, but not every charge of theft is justified as not every taking of property meets the required elements of the charge. While this post will offer readers some general information on the intent requirement of a theft charge, readers are cautioned not to use this article as legal advice.

In order for a theft to happen the alleged thief must intend, or have the requisite mindset, to know and want to deprive their alleged victim of their property. For example, if a person takes a watch from a store display, places it in their pocket, and then leaves the store with it but without paying for it, it may be said that they intended to deprive the store of the watch's value because they did not stop at the register to buy it.

If, though, a person visits their friend's home, finds a jacket they believe is theirs, places it in their bag, and takes it home with them, a theft may be harder to prove. That is because the alleged thief did not intend to deprive their friend of their property: the alleged thief thought that the allegedly stolen item was actually and honestly their own property.

Mistakes often turn accidental cases of alleged theft into serious legal problems. When charged with theft, an individual can get independent legal advice on their situation. A criminal defense attorney may provide them with options for overcoming their criminal charges.

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