The Specific Intent Defense to a San Diego Theft Offense

There is an extensive portion of the California Penal Code dedicated to theft offenses. There are many different types of theft cases, and leaves room for many different charges under the code. One of the elements required for a person to be convicted of a theft charge is that there must be specific intent. Specific intent means that the person charged with San Diego theft, must have the intent to deprive a person of their property permanently. If this intent is not there, then the person may have a strong defense to the theft violation.

For example, Dan is studying at the library. He notices that someone’s laptop is unattended and sitting on a desk. He picks up the laptop, puts it in his bag and walks away. Later at home, he deletes the files and programs on the laptop and puts on his own. He puts in his own passwords and information. In this situation, the evidence indicates that Dan had every intent to take the laptop and not return it. By deleting all the programs and installing his own, there is strong support that Dan would not be returning the laptop to the owner. If Dan used the specific intent defense in court, it would likely be denied.

In comparison, David is studying at the library. He notices that someone has left their laptop unattended on the desk. David is doing some work and needs to look up something for him to be able to continue with his studying. He walks over to the laptop and looks up something using the internet browser. He does not move the laptop and after looking up what he wants, he leaves the laptop as it was and closes what he was looking at only. Additionally, he leaves a note on the desk telling the owner that he used the laptop just to look up something briefly and apologizes for the inconvenience and thanks them for allowing him to use their laptop.

In the second scenario, there is no proof that David intended to deprive the owner of the laptop. In fact, there is strong evidence to the contrary. The fact that the laptop was never moved, the note that was left acknowledging the proper owner and thanking them for the use and possibly testimony from the owner themselves that it did not seem like David had any intention of stealing the laptop.

The major problem with the Specific Intent Defense is that it may be difficult to prove. In the above hypothetical scenarios, there is an exaggeration of facts which make proving the defense easier. However, in many cases the line is not so clear. Testimony may be biased and lack credibility, and often circumstantial evidence is available.

An experienced San Diego Theft Lawyer has handled thousands of theft cases and knows which evidence to present and how so that the defense is powerful. The attorney can assess the facts of your case and determine what the best option will be, keeping in mind the most important goal of having the theft case reduced or dismissed.