Can a rent-to-own store have me arrested and put in jail for pawningit’s merchandise?

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Can a rent-to-own store have me arrested and put in jail for pawningit’s merchandise?

I pawned a 42″ plasma television set as well as a PlayStation 3 that was under lease. The General Manager has threatened to throw me in jail because of it. The pawn shop has not sold the property yet and I still have 5 days to pick up their property and take it back to them. He told me that if they don’t have the property back by 01/14/11, he will go to the police to swear out a warrant for my arrest. What are my options? I am a husband with 3 children and I need all of the help that I can get.

Asked on January 13, 2011 under Criminal Law, Alabama

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Well today is the 14th and I would suggest that you go down to the pawn shop as soon as you possibly can and get the stuff out and return it to the store.  Technically speaking what you did was known as "conversion", meaning that you took property that was not your own and exercised a right of ownership that you did not have by pawning it to the pawn shop.  You do not own that property yet and so you can not do anything that could compromise the interest of the party that still has the ownership interest.  You would have had to wait until the contract was completed and you owned the property. Good luck to you.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you pawned  someone else's belongings, you committed theft--I hate to be so blunt, but there is no other way too describe what you did; you took items that you did not yet own, because they were under lease, and pawned them. If you return the property, it can be chalked up to a mistake (you technically still committed a criminal act, but with no harm done, there's no incentive for  the store to take action against you); if you don't return it and someone else buys it, it's theft and the store is completely within its rights to press charges and also to sue you for the value of the merchandise. You need to get these items back; otherwise you will have to face the consequences.


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