The maximum penalties that can be applied for theft vary depending on the state or territory in Australia. Other names for theft are larceny and stealing. These offenses are typically resolved in magistrates courts, though under some situations, they might be brought before a higher court. The laws pertaining to these offenses in each jurisdiction are described on this page.
Theft in Queensland
The Crimes Act 1899, section 391 in Queensland, defines the offence of stealing. The act of taking something falsely and converting it for one’s own use is called this offense. The maximum sentence for theft is five years in jail. Higher punishments, however, are imposed if the offense is committed under unusual circumstances.
A person faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence if they steal from another person, their employer, or one of the many other situations listed in sections. A person faces a maximum 14-year prison sentence if they steal a will.
Theft in the New South Wales
Section 117 of the Crimes Act 1900 penalizes larceny in New South Wales, with a maximum sentence of five years in jail.
The statute also lists particular offenses related to employee larceny from their employer, which are punishable by up to ten years in prison.
The statute also contains a number of less serious theft-related offenses, such as dog and shrub theft.
Larceny in Victoria
Section 74 of the Crimes Act 1958 defines stealing as an offense in Victoria. There is a maximum 10-year jail sentence for it. The measure also establishes a special crime known as “firearm theft,” which is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Robbery, armed robbery, and burglary are examples of related offenses.
Stealing in Tasmania
Unless otherwise specified by law, the maximum sentence for any indictable offense in Tasmania is 21 years in jail. Theft, power theft, and firearm theft are all crimes included under the Criminal Code Act of 1924 and are all punishable by the same general law. Related crimes like killing animals with the intention of stealing and threatening people with the purpose to steal are also included.
Theft in South Australia
The Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935, section 134, addresses theft in South Australia. It is described as handling property dishonestly, without the owner’s permission, with the intention of seriously infringing against the owner’s property rights or depriving them of the property permanently.
Ten years in jail is the punishment for theft (or fifteen years for an aggravated crime).
Stealing in Western Australia
Stealing carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence in Western Australia. If specific items are stolen, there are harsher penalties that apply—for instance, ten years for stealing an airplane or a will.
Theft in the Northern Territory
Section 210 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 criminalizes theft in the Northern Territory, carrying a maximum sentence of seven years in jail, or fourteen years if the stolen item is a will or has a value of more than $100,000.
Australia’s Defenses Against Theft
When facing charges of theft, one may rely on a number of following legal defenses:
Sincere/Honest Assertion of Rights
If someone had a legitimate claim to the purportedly taken item, they could not be held guilty of stealing.
If the claimed offense was the result of an honest mistake, such as if the accused honestly thought the owner had given their permission to take the object, the accused has a complete defense against any charges of theft.
No Desire to Permanently Impoverish
If someone takes something momentarily with the goal of giving it back, they are not committing stealing.
If someone committed a theft because of an unexpected or extreme situation, they have an immunity from prosecution.
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