Can someone still get into trouble with theft after they returned the item and an officer said they would not be in trouble?

A radio face plate was missing, found and returned. An officer said no punishment would happen, but he says he will write a $500 citation to the minors. Can he still do that?

Asked on March 16, 2012 under Criminal Law, Texas


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If someone steals an item, they can still be liable for the theft even though they later return the property.  The main focus is whether the person intended to steal or keep the property.  The return of the property is a potential defense to a theft allegation.... if a person really meant to steal the item, then they would not have returned it.  Your question though seems to imply a different set of facts than a normal theft.  If some kids happened to find an item that had been lost or stolen by someone else-- then they aren't guilty of theft.  As to the part of your question regarding the citation--- the officer can write the ticket on limited facts, however, with the info listed above,the minors will probably have  a defensne if they were not the ones that stole the radio face plate.  If they did steal the face plate, then they can be cited, even though the officer initially promised a different result. 

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