Theft in Victoria

Maximum Penalties:

  • Under section 74 of the Crimes Act 1958, the maximum penalty for theft is 10 years imprisonment.
  • If the matter is heard in the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment.

What is theft?

The offence of theft occurs when someone dishonestly takes another person’s property with the intention of permanently depriving them of it.

What constitutes theft in law?

For an offence of theft to occur, the property taken must be something tangible and have value. For instance, it can include money, personal belongings, vehicles such as cars, caravans or trailers, petrol, cheques, bank accounts, and more.

The property must belong to someone else, and the person in possession of it may not necessarily be the legal owner. For example, even if someone possesses prohibited drugs illegally, theft can still be charged.

Returning the property later or offering equal value as replacement is not a defence if the person received a benefit from taking it. For instance, taking an item from a store with the intention of returning it for a refund is still considered theft.

What police must prove

To find a person guilty of theft, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The person appropriated the property.
  • The property belonged to someone else.
  • The person intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.
  • The person had a dishonest state of mind.

Possible Defences for Theft A person charged with theft can defend the charge by arguing:

  • They had a legal right to take the property.
  • They had the owner’s consent to take the property.
  • The owner of the property cannot be discovered despite reasonable efforts to find them.

Which court will hear your matter?

The court that hears the case depends on the value of the stolen property:

  • If the value is under $100,000, the Magistrates Court will handle the matter with the consent of the accused and the prosecution.
  • If the value exceeds $100,000, the case will be heard in the County Court or Supreme Court.

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