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What Constitutes Intent in a Nevada Theft Case?

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What Constitutes Intent in a Nevada Theft Case?


Intent, or doing something willfully, is a big part of any criminal case. The legal, Latin term for intent is "mens rea." When you understand how important intent is in a criminal case, you can develop strong defense strategies. Proving that you did not mean to commit a crime could be the difference between freedom and a long-term prison sentence.

In this blog, we will broadly explore the idea of intent and how it specifically relates to theft crimes. If you’re facing any form of theft allegation, use this article to help you better understand your charges and how to fight them.

Defining Intent in Theft Cases

In Nevada, intent is defined as “the purpose or set of purposes for which a person acts and the state of mind accompanying that action.”

Put simply, a person must willfully commit a crime for a jury to find them guilty. The state uses this definition and its related criteria to determine whether a theft occurred. This forms the foundation of theft prosecutions in Nevada.

The “state of mind” portion of the definition refers to how clearheaded someone is at the moment of the crime. If they are having a mental health episode, for instance, the court should consider this fact when determining intent. Courts can even consider whether someone was drunk or high at the time.

How Courts Consider Intent in a Theft Case

When it comes to determining intent in theft cases, Nevada courts consider a variety of factors.

The court can evaluate:

  • The accused’s patterns of behavior
  • The frequency of particular behaviors
  • evidence related to premeditating or planning the crime
  • statements the accused made about being involved or uninvolved in a theft

Furthermore, physical evidence of an alleged crime may reveal intent. Imagine, for instance, police search the suspect’s car and find tools commonly used to break into a safe. At that point, it’s fair for them to assume the suspect was involved in a recent safecracking crime.

Challenging Intent in a Theft Allegation

Here are some defenses you can use to show you did not willfully steal another person’s property.

  • Necessity
    In an emergency, you may be able to justify taking someone else’s belongings. You, for instance, are running from muggers and see an unchained bike, so you hop on the bike and make your escape.
  • Consent Was Present
    If you honestly believe that the owner gave you access to property and you took it, you can show the court that the entire incident was a mistake or a miscommunication. For instance, you believed you had the right to borrow someone’s car, but they reported it stolen.
  • The Property Was Abandoned
    Let’s say a mother puts her cell phone down on a park bench and runs over to the playground when her child falls. While she’s tending to her child, someone swipes the phone. In that case, it’s hard to argue that she abandoned the property, and the alleged thief could face penalties.

    However, imagine someone who throws their cell phone into the grass, yelling, “Piece of junk!” They leave it there and walk away, never turning back. A situation like this could justify an “abandoned property” defense in a theft case.

Nevada’s Penalties for Theft Crimes

Sentencing fluctuates based on the details of the crime. Embezzlement, for instance, carries far steeper punishments than purse-snatching.

Lower-left theft is often a misdemeanor crime, which can include jail time and steep fines. Felony theft charges can result in 10 1o 15 years in prison.

The value of the property is also relevant to sentencing. If the stolen property stolen is worth $1,000 or more, the crime can be classified as a Category B felony.

Other repercussions can:

  • Probation
  • Community service orders
  • Court-mandated restitution
  • Enrollment in counseling programs at your expense
  • Professional license suspension or revocation, depending on your profession

Law Offices of Kenneth A. Stover is here to help you fight theft allegations. Call us today at (775) 502-1575 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

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