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Forgetting to return a borrowed item is not theft

Are you worried that you might face accusations of theft if you borrow something and then simply forget to give it back? If so, you need to know the role that intent plays in these situations. Simply being forgetful is not going to land you in jail for theft.

To show that you did steal the item, it would have to be shown that you never intended to return it. You may have said you were borrowing it, but you had to know right then that you weren't planning to bring it back. You also could have decided to steal the item after borrowing it. Either way, though, you must have intent to steal at some point during the process. If it just slipped your mind, you are not guilty of theft.

Still, you could find yourself accused, especially when the other party doesn't believe you. This could happen if you borrow a laptop computer from work, for example, with the permission of your boss. You may then forget to bring it back in, and your boss could accuse you of stealing it, threatening both to call the police and to fire you.

This is a frightening situation, but it's important to keep your cool and work to explain your side of the story. Offer to give the item back. Make every effort to show that you never intended to do anything wrong, and the situation may be resolved on its own.

If not, though, you must know your legal defense options in New York. Remember that the prosecution has to show intent for the charges to stick.

Source: FIndLaw, "Can I Be Accused of Stealing Something I Borrowed If I Forget to Return It?," accessed Dec. 16, 2015

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Robert D. DiDio
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