What Evidence Do Police Need to Prove Theft Charges?
The handcuffs clicked tighter than expected. Now, you face criminal theft accusations. But a knock on the door from cops is still a far cry from conviction. The reality is police need extensive evidence to legally prove theft charges in court.
Do they have what it takes to make the allegations stick beyond reasonable doubt? Or can the lack of phone records, eyewitness accounts, camera footage, or other critical documentation save you.
This post reveals the key types of proof prosecutors rely on to confirm guilt. Learn precisely how much evidence is required to transform charges into definitive conviction.
What Constitutes Theft in Minnesota?
Under Minnesota Statute 609.52, theft means that someone took, used, transferred, concealed, or retained possession of movable property without the owner’s consent.
The prosecutor has the burden of proof to show that the individual intended to deprive the owner permanently of possession or use of the property. Theft does not require that the person succeeded in stealing the property, only that they made the attempt.
Some common theft offenses in Minnesota include:
- Auto theft
- Identity theft
- Receiving stolen property
The penalties vary based on the value of the property involved. For example, theft of property worth $1000 or less is a misdemeanor, while theft of property worth more than $35,000 is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Types of Evidence Used to Prove Theft Charges
To convict someone of theft in Minnesota, the prosecutor must prove these key elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The individual took or obtained possession of the property without consent
- The individual intended to deprive the owner permanently of the property
- The individual knew they were not entitled to take the property
The type of evidence needed to prove these elements may include:
If there were any eyewitnesses to the alleged theft, the prosecutor would likely call them to testify about what they saw. Their description of the perpetrator’s actions can help establish that property was taken without consent. However, eyewitness testimony can be unreliable at times. A skilled criminal defense attorney can question the credibility of eyewitness accounts.
Video from security cameras or surveillance systems often provides crucial evidence in theft cases. The prosecutor may use footage showing the defendant taking merchandise in a store or loading property into a vehicle. However, conditions like poor video quality can make identification difficult. Defense counsel may argue that the person shown is not the defendant.
Any stolen property found in the defendant’s possession can serve as evidence that they took it unlawfully. Other physical evidence like fingerprints, DNA, or tools used in a theft may link the defendant to the crime scene. However, improper collection, handling, or storage of physical evidence by police can make it inadmissible.
Documents and Records
Financial statements, inventory logs, accounting ledgers, receipts, titles, deeds, and other documents help establish ownership and value of stolen goods. Documents can also reveal suspicious transactions indicating embezzlement or identity theft.
Any statements made by the defendant to police or others may be used against them as evidence. Incriminating statements can help demonstrate the defendant’s knowledge, intent, and actions related to the theft. However, admissions may be excluded if obtained improperly or in violation of the defendant’s rights.
Since direct evidence is not always available, the prosecution may rely heavily on circumstantial evidence that implies guilt through reasoning and inferences. For example, being in possession of recently stolen property without a reasonable explanation can indicate involvement in the theft.
Working with a Criminal Defense Attorney to Defend Against Theft
If you are facing allegations of theft, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can make all the difference.
Here are some of the key ways a theft attorney can defend you:
- Examining if there is sufficient evidence proving theft. Your attorney will thoroughly review all evidence to identify any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
- Raising doubt about criminal intent. Your lawyer may argue you did not intend to deprive the owner or reasonably believed you had consent permanently.
- Suppressing illegally obtained evidence. If it was gathered improperly, your attorney could file a motion to have evidence thrown out.
- Negotiating with the prosecution. Your lawyer may be able to get charges reduced or dismissed through plea negotiations.
- Calling into question the credibility of witnesses. Your attorney can closely examine any eyewitness testimony or statements.
- Presenting affirmative defenses. Defenses like a claim of right, voluntary intoxication, or duress may apply.
- Advocating for mitigating factors at sentencing. Your lawyer will highlight facts about your background and the circumstances of the alleged offense.
Theft covers a wide range of offenses with varying penalties in Minnesota. So, building an effective defense requires a nuanced approach tailored to your specific case.
Contact Our Minnesota Theft Lawyers Today
If you are under investigation or have been charged with any type of theft offense in Minnesota, you need legal advice from a local criminal defense attorney. At Martine Law, our attorneys have extensive experience representing clients facing theft allegations throughout Minnesota.
We will thoroughly examine the evidence and circumstances of your case to build the strongest possible defense. Where criminal charges cannot be avoided, we will aggressively negotiate with prosecutors to have charges reduced or dismissed.
To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us today. You can trust that we will expend every effort to defend you against theft charges.