Is it larceny if I intend to return the property?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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A person who intentionally takes property intending to permanently deprive the owner of the property is guilty of larceny or theft. Larceny is a specific intent crime. To convict the offender of larceny, the evidence must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that not only did the person take the property, he also did so without any intention of returning the property. Therefore, anyone who takes or “borrows” property with the intention of returning it should not be charged with larceny.

The problem, however, is that nothing is ever simply black or white. There are many times when “borrowed” property can turn into “stolen” property, depending on individual actions or perceptions. For example, a rental car can turn into a stolen car if the renter does not return it at the time agreed upon. Likewise, borrowed property that is not returned before it is reported to the police as stolen, whatever the intention an actor had about returning it, can be considered stolen property by prosecutors eager to charge you with larceny or theft.

Larceny Conviction Consequences

A conviction for a dishonesty crime like larceny can have a very serious impact on your life. It can prevent you from finding employment, keep you out of college, or prevent you from entering the military. It can also limit your future earnings capacity or be used against you in court to counter your credibility as a witness. It is best to avoid these consequences by ensuring that there is never any chance that you are charged with or convicted of the larceny.

You should be sure that you promptly return any property that you have borrowed. Otherwise, the lawnmower that you borrowed from your neighbor and never returned can result in a larceny conviction, and in turn, a criminal record that will haunt you for the rest of your life. Contact a criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with larceny.

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