Ending a relationship with a someone you lived with is rarely pleasant, and it can get complicated fast if he or she suddenly accuses you of stealing their property after you move out. If an ex-friend or partner has accused you of stealing their personal property, what sort of defenses do you have?
You were just borrowing it.
While this might not be a viable defense if you knew you weren't supposed to use something, there are times when this really might be a valid claim. If you never intended to deprive the owner of the property permanently and thought that you had permission to borrow the item, your use of it probably doesn't amount to a crime.
For example, if you had routinely used your boyfriend or girlfriend's truck and you thought you were still on good enough terms to continue using it to move your things into your new place, you might be able to convince the court that your use didn't amount to theft. The court may look at whether or not you had your own set of keys to the vehicle and whether or not permission to use the vehicle had been expressly revoked.
It was rightfully your property.
Sometimes roommates and romantic partners will purchase items together or for each other. Then, when the relationship ends, the ownership of the item may come into dispute. This especially happens when the item is expensive or sentimental in nature.
For example, if you and your partner bought a painting together on your first romantic getaway, who owns it when the relationship ends? If you take it without a clear agreement from your ex, you could find yourself facing theft charges.
This is when it pays to dig through your old receipts or love notes. If you have proof of purchase, you can show the court that it was rightfully yours. Similarly, if you have a note from your ex that mentions the painting as a gift, that could prove to the court that you had a right to take it with you. The same goes with jewelry, especially high-end pieces or pieces that belonged to your ex's family.
Your ex-partner or roommate benefited in some way.
This is the sort of defense that usually comes up when someone is accused of stealing cash or converting goods that didn't belong to them into cash. For example, maybe you took money out of your ex's bank account while you were still together per their instructions to pay for something they needed. Maybe they had a bunch of overdue bills that had to be paid, or maybe they needed to pay bail when they got caught drunk driving. The fact that they benefited from the use of the money is a valid defense if they later charge you with stealing. Similarly, if you sold something that belonged to you both and split the cash with your ex, that's another valid defense.
If your ex accuses you of stealing something that belonged to him or her, don't wait to see how far he or she will press the case. Talk to a defense attorney today, such as one at Santore & Santore, about the situation so that you can prepare your defense if the police do get involved.