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Can a Teen Be Charged With Theft if They Return the Item?

Posted in Criminal Defense on July 20, 2023

Part of the retail shopping experience is trying on the clothing or accessories you intend to purchase. You may have picked up sunglasses, a scarf, or other items and walked out without realizing you forgot to pay for them. Under most circumstances, making an honest mistake is a defense to theft charges in Texas. Generally, you must have acted with criminal intent, which means you intentionally took property that did not belong to you, and you had no plans to return it to be convicted of the crime. However, if you intentionally took something that did not belong to you without consent or intention of returning it until you felt remorse, a mistake of fact defense may not apply, and you may still be charged with theft.  

The lawyers at Mary E. Conn & Associates have helped countless teens in juvenile criminal defense cases, including theft charges. Our experienced legal team can provide legal guidance throughout the legal process so you can achieve a favorable outcome.

Texas Theft Laws 

To be charged with theft in Texas, certain elements must be present for a conviction to occur. These elements include the unlawful taking of someone else’s property, criminal intent, and you had possession of the property. Whether the property is returned or not, the initial act of taking the property without permission may still constitute theft under the law.

Various scenarios may constitute a mistake of fact defense to avoid theft charges, including the following: 

  • You were not aware the property was in your possession
  • You borrowed an item and forgot to return it 
  • You mistakenly believed you were the rightful owner of the property 
  • You accepted stolen property without knowing it was stolen
  • You mistakenly believed you were given consent 

The juvenile justice system addresses the unique needs of minors under 17, focusing on rehabilitation and education rather than punishment. If you are charged with theft as a minor, penalties vary based on the value of the stolen property and your criminal history. Even if you returned items because you felt remorseful, you may still face fines, community service, probation, or enrollment in educational programs upon conviction. 

Call the juvenile defense lawyers at Mary E. Conn & Associates for an assessment of your case and to understand your best legal options. 

Legal Options for Teens Charged With Theft

Teens charged with theft in Texas have several legal options available to address their situation, including the following potential avenues: 

Diversion Programs and Alternative Sentencing

In some cases, teens may be eligible for diversion programs or deferred prosecution, which involves completing certain conditions, such as community service, restitution, education programs, and counseling. If these conditions are met, the charges may be dropped, and your record may remain clean. 

Building a Strong Defense

Enlisting the help of juvenile defense lawyers is vital to the success of your case. Our legal team will assess your case, explore potential defenses, challenge evidence, and fiercely advocate for the best possible outcome. 

Expungement or Sealing Criminal Records

Successfully completing certain programs or meeting specific criteria may allow you to have your record sealed or expunged, minimizing the long-term impact of a criminal history. 

Each case is unique, and the availability of these options may vary based on the specific circumstances of the offense and your prior criminal history. 

Contact the Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyers at Mary E. Conn & Associates

While returning a stolen item can show a sense of responsibility and remorse, it may not automatically absolve a teen of theft charges. The outcome may depend on the intent behind the act and the individual circumstances of the case. If you or your teen are facing theft charges, the legal team at Mary E. Conn & Associates can help you navigate the legal process from initial consultation to resolution. 

Call one of our experienced lawyers today at (713) 357-4190 or fill out a contact form.

CALL US TODAY 713-357-4190