Q: Can someone be charged with theft of equipment if they got the equipment back?
A: Yes - returning the stolen item does not "cancel out" the original crime of theft. Returning the stolen item can affect what charges you would face. For example, if you stole a car and tried to "Get away with it," you could face felony theft charges (assuming the car was worth more than $500); however, if you stole your neighbor's new Porsche and took it for a spin around the block before returning it, you may 'only' face joyriding charges, which is a misdemeanor
A: I am assuming when you say "they" you are referring to the rightful owners. The answer to your question
is absolutely yes you can be charged with the theft if you unlawfully deprived the owner of their property
for any length of time. Returning the property is not a defense. The good news is returning the property is a significant mitigating factor that prosecutors and judges look at in resolving the case. If you get charged with a crime it would be wise to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you in resolving the matter hopefully so you do not wind up with a conviction on your record.
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