This article is a general guide written by our criminal lawyers Sydney team. It is not to be replaced as legal advice. For advice, call our office to arrange a free consult if charged.
- Theft and Identity Theft Australia
- Shoplifting | Shoplifting Australia Laws
Stealing is the intentional taking and carrying away of property that belongs to another, without consent, with the intention to permanently deprive the owner or person in lawful possession thereof, dishonestly and without a claim of right.
The offence of larceny carries up to five years imprisonment if dealt with on indictment in the District Court pursuant to section 117 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). Most larceny charges are dealt with in the Local Court, in which case, the maximum penalties are restricted depending on the value of the property.
Punishment for Stealing in NSW, Australia
|PENALTIES FOR LARCENY IN LOCAL COURT|
|Over $5,000||2 years||$11,000|
|$5,000 or less||2 years||$5,500|
|$2,000 or less||2 years||$2,200|
The above maximum penalties are prescribed by the law but are rarely imposed on offenders. This is because the maximum penalties prescribed are reserved for the most serious offenders of this kind of offence.
What is the Punishment for Stealing a Car or Petrol in Australia?
Stealing a car amounts to an offence under section 154F of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) with a prescribed penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment if dealt with in the District Court of New South Wales. If dealt with in the Local Court of New South Wales, then the maximum penalty prescribed is limited to 2 years imprisonment and/or $11,000 fine.
If the petrol stolen is worth over $5,000, the penalty is up to 2 years imprisonment and/or $11,000 fine. But if the value of it is $2,000 or less, the punishment is up to 2 years imprisonment and/or $2,200 fine. If the value of it is $5,000 or less but more than $2,000, the punishment is up to 2 years imprisonment and/or $5,500 fine. These penalties apply to offences of stealing committed within the State of New South Wales.
Penalty for Stealing Money from Employer
The penalty for stealing money from an employer carries up to 10 years jail under section 156 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). The section says that anyone being a clerk, servant, steals any property belonging to or in the possession or power of his or her employer is guilty of the offence of larceny by clerk. However, the penalties depend on the value of the property.
The same penalties for stealing that are outlined in the above table also apply to stealing money from an employer.
Theft and Identity Theft Australia
Larceny compared to theft is technically the same at law. Theft is simply another word for larceny or stealing. Section 117 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) prescribes up to five years jail for the offence of theft.
There are many types of thefts, including identity theft. Identity theft is another form of fraud and white collar crime.
What is Identity Theft?
What is identity theft? Identity theft is the use of a person’s personal details by means of stealing fraudulent documents or otherwise appropriating a person’s identity. This is commonly used to open fake bank accounts, or apply for loans, passports fraudulent tax returns, register motor vehicles, create debts and apply for driver licences and also extends to obtaining funds from bank accounts, superannuation or shares.
What is Petty Theft?
Petty theft is the crime of stealing property if the property value or amount does not exceed $300. Then police have discretion to issue a penalty notice, also known as a fine of $300. A penalty notice can be court elected if the alleged offender wishes to take it to court to be heard. Here is more on penalty notice options.
Punishment for Theft in NSW, Australia
|PENALTIES FOR THEFT|
|Property Value||Jail in Local Court||Jail in District Court||Fine|
|Over $5,000||2 years||5 years||$11,000|
|$5,000 or less||2 years||5 years||$5,500|
|$2,000 or less||2 years||None||$2,200|
|$300 or less||None||None||$300|
Grand Theft Auto Crime
Grand theft auto is the crime of stealing a motor vehicle or vessel and carries penalties of up to 10 years jail under section 154F of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). The 10 year maximum penalty only applies if dealt with in the District Court in New South Wales.
Grand theft auto (car theft) can be dealt with in the Local Court, where the Local Court will be limited to imposing a maximum penalty of 2 years jail and/or $11,000 fine.
Shoplifting | Shoplifting Australia Laws
What is shoplifting? Shoplifting is the intentional taking and carrying away of a property or other item in the shop that is owned or in the lawful possession of the shop owner, without consent, if the taking and carrying away is done with the intention to permanently deprive the shop owner of the property. The offence also requires that the offence be done dishonestly and without an honest legal claim of right to it.
How Long After Shoplifting Can you be Caught in Australia?
A shoplifter or thief who steals an item from a shop is usually caught at or outside the shop by security. Some shops don’t have security but rely on their CCTV footage to try to find the shoplifter. If the shop owner has a strong enough lead, then the shop owner can involve police to track that person down. It could take weeks to months to track down the perpetrator. Sometimes, the perpetrator won’t be caught until he/she does it again.
Chances of Getting Caught Shoplifting After Leaving Store?
After a shoplifter leaves the store with the stolen item(s), the chances of getting caught really depend on the evidence of guilt. The usual evidence of guilt is either CCTV footage showing the theft and/or a witness having observed the shoplifting who identifies the shoplifter as the same person who has left the store. Typically, issues of identification arise here and any prosecution for shoplifting by police will fail if the police cannot prove the identity beyond reasonable doubt. For this reason, police will typically want to speak to the alleged offender in order to try to get him/her to confirm that the perpetrator shown in the CCTV footage or image is the same person as the alleged offender. It is important to get legal advice before talking.
What happens if you get Caught Shoplifting in Australia?
If police have sufficient evidence of you having stolen an item from a shop, they will first need to ensure there’s sufficient evidence that the perpetrator is the same person as you. They often try to lock this evidence in by getting you to talk and confirm that you are the perpetrator. They will try to do this by showing you an image or footage of the perpetrator committing the shoplifting offence. Police will then charge you with the offence of shoplifting by giving you a court attendance notice. They may not require you to attend the police station, and instead, mail the charge papers to you. Alternatively, they may require you to attend the police station, in which case police will arrest and hand you the charge papers at the police station. You will then be required to attend court on the date and court location outlined in the charge papers.
It is strongly advised to get legal advice before attending court.
What happens if you get caught stealing at Woolworths or Coles? The same process described above will apply.
Can You Go to Jail for Shoplifting in Australia?
Shoplifting is a type of larceny which carries heavy penalties including jail across Australia. In New South Wales, shoplifting penalties vary depending on the value of the item stolen. If the property value is $300 of less, the police can issue a $300 penalty notice fine. If the property value is over $5,000, then this will result in a criminal charge requiring court attendance(s) where the maximum penalty can go up to 5 years jail. Refer to the table of penalties outlined above.
Can Police Come to your House After Shoplifting in Australia?
If police have sufficient evidence that you shoplifted or stole property that does not belong to you, and police are unable to contact you through email or phone call(s), then police will make attempts to find you at you home in order to either ask more questions, and/or arrest and charge you. Once a complaint is made to police as to an alleged shoplifting, police will open a file and commence investigations. Part of the investigation process involves approaching the alleged offender.
It is generally advisable to speak to a lawyer before speaking to police. The most important advice to remember is the right to silence.