What exactly constitutes the crime of theft?
In order for someone to charge you with theft, you have to actually take someone else's property without any intention of returning it.
Property is a very loosely defined subject, however, which means that it could include something as simple as your neighbor's lawnmower or it could be the plans your boss has for the development of a new piece of technology. Taking the lawnmower would get you charged with property theft, while taking your employer's ideas would get you charged with intellectual property theft.
Shoplifting also frequently leads to theft charges -- For example, you may have put a few cases of soda on the bottom of your cart and wheeled it out without telling the cashier they were there.
There are a number of defenses that can be offered up to the charge of theft -- even if it seems like the situation meets the underlying criteria for the charge.
For example, assume that you did take your neighbor's lawnmower without permission. However, you and your neighbor have generally borrowed tools from each other before and you always returned what you borrowed. You may have assumed that it would simply be okay to take the lawnmower again, since you did it before without a problem. Absent any proof that you intended to keep the lawnmower or sell it to someone else, the theft charge would probably fail.
In a case where you are accused of intellectual property theft the issues can be quite complex because there's often some doubt about who truly owned the property in the first place. Was the idea for the new tech actually yours? Did you come up with it on your own time as a side project and happen to tell your boss about it? If so, you may not be the thief in this situation.
In shoplifting cases, there's often an issue of distraction involved. For example, if you didn't mention the soda to the cashier it may have been because you thought she saw it and added it to the tab -- if you were busy with a child, it's an easy thing to happen.
If you've been accused of shoplifting or another form of theft, talk to a defense attorney today.
Source: Findlaw, "What is theft?," accessed June 16, 2017