Gary, IN asked in Criminal Law for Indiana

Q: Can you be charged with theft if the person received their items back?

I was at work as a CNA I was told to take care of this one patient in particular because her daughter comes in complaining all the time where as another patient needed more care so I took care of the patient with the complaints and did the rest of my patients at some point I had to pick up a phone thinking it was my. Got off work went home next day returned to work within 4 hrs into my shift the weekend supervisor called me down to the police and a lady. MY SUPERVISOR ADVISED ME THAT A OHONE WAS TRACKED BACK TO MY ADDRESS AND TO CHECK MY CAR TO SEE IF THE PHONE WAS THERE I said it wasn't but when I went to the car it was they told me I would be charged and 4 months later I get a letter saying I 'm being charged with thief has someone called and said check to see if you have this young lady's phone I could've checked my car and returned the phone no phone calls from my employer or nothing so can I be charged for this?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James A Hanson
James A Hanson
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Fort Wayne, IN
  • Licensed in Indiana

A: All the State needs to file charges is probable cause that at a particular moment in time you took the phone with the conscious intent of depriving the rightful owner of its use or value. A classic example is someone who gets caught at the door shoplifting. Even though all the items are recovered by the store, the State can still bring charges because at the moment the person headed out the door there was an intent to steal the items with no indication that they changed their mind.

In your case, you need to get an attorney to discuss possible defenses focused on intent. If you mistakenly picked up the wrong phone and simply didn't realize it was the wrong phone, you might be able to argue that you did not "knowingly or intentionally" steal the phone. This defense will depend on all the facts and circumstances in your case, so you need to have this conversation more in depth with your attorney to see if it might apply to your case.

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