The definition of theft spawns many areas, but one of them that’s misunderstood is theft by conversion. This OpinionFront post explains this particular law and the penalties included in it.
Did You Know?
All theft crimes are treated as a felony if the property stolen has a value of more than USD 1000.
The law dictates that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Legally speaking, conversion is considered to be act that can have various interpretations. If this act is done unlawfully, it is considered a theft. This crime has come into the spotlight since rapper Young Dro was arrested for theft by conversion related to lease/rent of property. Since this type of theft usually involves stealing someone’s property, this act is culpable to a tort, in which action can be filed for any wrongdoing, and damages can be sought.
Theft involves a wide array of crimes such as theft by taking, theft by shoplifting, theft by extortion, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by receiving stolen property, theft of laid or mislaid property, and theft by conversion.
What is Theft by Conversion?
Theft by conversion occurs when a person legally obtains possession of some money or property and misuses it for his own purposes. If a person living on rent, sells the home without the permission of the owner or sublets the property to others without prior permission from the owner, it constitutes a theft by conversion. Another example is when an employee takes money from his employer to pay the company’s bills, but pays his home bills instead.
This theft differs from other forms of theft, where possession is obtained by unlawful means or force. It usually entails on some verbal agreement between the owner and defendant, and the crime occurs when the defendant uses the property contrary to what the owner intended. In a nutshell, it can be explained as obtaining the property legally or according to some agreement, then violating the agreement and converting the property for your own personal use. It can be applied to property, animals, vehicles, etc.
Examples of Theft by Conversion
A dog owner took his neighbor to court over the ownership of his dog. She had dog-sat for 72 hrs. and was claiming ownership. The dog owner took the neighbor to court and sued her for theft by conversion.
If a person borrows a hedge trimmer from her neighbor to maintain the landscape of her garden, can be charged with this crime for using it to cut a tree.
If a person borrows a car from a rental, then violates the agreement by refusing to return it, can be charged with this crime. He can also be charged for the same for attempting to sell the vehicle.
▪ If the value of the property stolen is less than USD 500, then it’s considered a misdemeanor, while if the value is more than USD 5000, he may be charged with a felony.
▪ Misdemeanor can be charged with fines of up to USD 1000 or a year in prison.
▪ Felony charges can lead to a maximum sentence of 10 years and a minimum sentence of a year.
▪ If it’s a second conviction of theft, the sentence can increase up to 20 years in prison.
Theft by conversion can be committed by a misunderstanding or mistake. It can also be termed as ‘attempted theft’ or conspiracy to commit, in the event the crime has failed to take place. Both these crimes can be charged based on the situation. The charges can be dropped if the defendant reimburses the owner of the goods or property or returns the goods. Being charged with this crime can be a stressful experience, especially if this was a case of forgetfulness or mistaken identity. It’s best to take the advice of an attorney specializing in these cases.