Information about stealing and what could happen if you get charged.

Sometimes the law calls stealing ‘larceny.’ There are different types of stealing charges and some are more serious than others. 

Stealing includes shoplifting. Other stealing charges include robbery (sometimes called ‘steal from person’) and stealing a car. Different rules and penalties apply.

Stealing is a criminal offence. You could get a fine or have to go to court.

The maximum penalty for stealing if your case is dealt with in the Local Court is 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine. 

Most stealing charges are dealt with in the Local Court. More serious charges can be dealt with by the District Court. Different rules about the procedure apply if you have to go to the District Court.

At court you will need to tell the court if you are pleading guilty or not guilty. You might have other options too, like negotiating with the police, or making a Section 14 application (a mental health application).

If you plead ‘not guilty’, the police will need to provide you with all the evidence they have against you before the hearing date.

If there is video evidence, such as CCTV footage, you might be able to view this at the police station before you enter a plea at court. You will need to speak to police to arrange this. 

If you have been charged with stealing, you should get legal advice before entering your plea.

For more information on going to court for a stealing charge, see Going to court.

Sometimes if you are caught shoplifting, police might give you an infringement (fine) instead of taking you to court. You could choose to take the offence to court, but this is not always a good idea. If you are found guilty, you could face a higher penalty than if you had just paid the fine, including: 

  • a higher fine
  • a criminal record
  • court costs
  • prison time.

For more information on dealing with a fine, see Fines.

If you have received a fine for shoplifting and are considering taking it to court, you should get legal advice.

If you go to court and plead not guilty to a larceny (stealing) charge, it is up to the police to prove:

  • you took the property and carried it away
  • the property belonged to someone else
  • the owner didn’t give you permission to take it
  • you intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property
  • you have no claim of right on the property made in good faith (that you believed you had a right to take the property), and
  • the property was taken dishonestly.

Unless the police can prove all these things, the Court must find you not guilty.

Other types of stealing charges, for example, robbery, have other things that police must prove.