If I borrow property that I fail to return, can I be charged with theft?
UPDATED: August 15, 2012
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A key element of any larceny or theft crime is what an offender intends to do with the property after taking it. Typically, an offender is guilty of a theft crime when he takes the property of another with the intention of permanently depriving him of it. Deciding later to keep the property an offender orginally intended to use temporarily and then return becomes a larceny or theft crime at the moment the offender's intent changes. The perfect example of this is a rental car you decide not to return. A lawful rental becomes a larceny or theft crime the moment you fail to return it on time with the intention of keeping it.
Keep in mind that the more valuable the property is, the more serious the crime becomes once you decide not to return it. In most jurisdictions, larceny or theft crimes are graded as felonies or misdemeanors based on the value of the property taken. Pennsylvania, for example, grades the theft of a car as a third-degree felony, while the theft of a book is considered only a summary offense. The punishment for offenses, of course, depends on how it is graded and is greater if it is a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor or summary offense.
You should also realize that borrowing items from friends or neighbors that you do not return to them could also be considered larceny or theft. So before you consider keeping that lawnmower you borrowed last week to mow your lawn, first consider the consequences. In not returning it, you could be prosecuted for and convicted of larceny and theft and end up with a criminal record that could could keep you from getting a job or going to school. Simply put, any larceny or theft crime can haunt you for the rest of your life.