Can i go to jail for not returning employer property

I completely forgot i was in
possession of a tool that belonged
to my former employer and now the
police are trying to charge me
with theft

Asked on March 22, 2016 under Criminal Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

To be guilty of a crime (theft) requires a criminal intent (or "mens rea"), such as the intent to take something not belonging to you. Accidentally taking something is something you can be sued over (e.g for the value of what you took) but is not a crime.
The problem is, the authorities of no way of precisely knowing your intent. If the circumstances show or strongly suggest that you did deliberately take the item, they may conclude that you had criminal intent. To be convicted (i.e. potentially go to jail), a court would have to believe, based on the evidence, that you had criminal intent when taking the tool. You can put in your evidence (e.g. your testimony) that you did not, and a court will weight the credibilty, or believability,  of the evidence and testimony and decide if you committed a crime.


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