Theft case – What if the stolen items are returned? Can they still press charges?

Theft charges and returning the property taken when asked by the police

A question was asked the other day:  “My Friend was arrested for Grand theft. He stole from a person who he worked for, but they found out about through the nanny cams they had in their home. The owners contacted my friend along with the Sheriff’s department.  The Sheriff then contacted my friend saying that the owners just wanted their things back, so he returned the items. But now he was arrested for Grand Theft and charged by the same people. What can be done?”

First:  Who can “press charges”?

The alleged victim of any crime doesn’t “press charges” – that decision is solely up to the prosecutor.  A person can make a police report and the police can arrest based on the information they gather, but the filing of criminal charges is exclusively up to the prosecutor (the D.A. or City Attorney, depending on the jurisdiction).

Does returning the stolen items solve the problem?

Returning the items doesn’t undo the original act. Your friend will still likely face theft charges in court.  The elements of theft are taking property of another with the intent to permanently deprive them of their property.  Theft is completed at the time of the taking of the property, so returning the items after the fact doesn’t undo the elements of the crime that were in place at the time of the original taking.  It may help to show remorse and lessen any sentence, but technically, it doesn’t ‘fix’ the original problem.

So what should the friend do?

What can be done? He needs a good criminal defense attorney to represent him. The charge he faces depends on the dollar amount – grand theft (over $400) is a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Depending on just how much over the $400 mark it is will matter significantly. He’s potentially facing a felony charge that carries up to three years in state prison. That isn’t necessarily what he would get, but any criminal conviction carries lasting consequences far beyond the original sentence.

Orange County Defense Attorney – Joe Dane

(714) 532-3600

For more about theft charges, see the links below:

Grand theft vs. Petty theft

Theft offenses