Property crimes are some of the most common criminal offenses. In Virginia, there are numerous different kinds of theft offenses that people can commit. The state can charge you with crimes ranging from grand larceny to armed robbery.
The circumstances involved at the time of the alleged theft and the value of the items involved will typically have a major impact on what charges and therefore what penalties someone faces. Many Virginia theft offenses are the results of law enforcement finding an individual and possession of stolen property or connecting them to a completed theft crime, but that is not always the case.
In fact, there are scenarios in which someone may not physically steal from a person or business at all and still end up facing charges. When could you face theft charges despite not taking anyone else’s property?
After concealing or tampering with merchandise
Maybe you are starting holiday shopping and you don’t want your child to see the item that you just grabbed off the shelf. You might slip it into another item that you intend to purchase. Putting a set of earrings or a DVD inside a shoebox would be a perfect example.
Your actions are completely innocent, but loss prevention or security professionals may operate under the assumption that you intended to defraud the business and abscond with that merchandise without paying for it. They could stop you and make allegations against you before you ever leave the business. Just concealing merchandise is enough to cause shoplifting charges.
After entering the wrong space
Maybe you showed up at the wrong house because you misread an invitation to a party. Perhaps you sat down in a lawn chair display while waiting for a text back about a purchase, and woke up in a closed store.
Individuals could find themselves accused of burglary offenses simply for being present in a space where they have no legal right to be. You don’t necessarily have to break into a property to face burglary charges. Police only have to believe that you gained access with the intent to steal or commit other crimes to charge you.
There are many scenarios in which seemingly innocent behaviors end up looking like criminal activity. Understanding why authorities accuse you of a theft offense could help you plan a more effective defense strategy.