Skip to Content

When Is Borrowing Considered Stealing?


Whether you’re trying on your best friend’s amazing clothes or admiring their extensive video game collection, you may suddenly get the urge to ask if you can borrow one of their treasured belongings. Unfortunately, in some cases borrowing can sour into a theft charge.

At the Law Office of Michael Mirer, P.A., our Miami theft crime defense attorney understands how difficult it can be to deal with an accusation of stealing, especially if you only wanted to borrow an item. If you do need assistance with fighting theft charges, you’ll need the kind of powerful defense Attorney Mirer can provide on your behalf.

Borrowing vs. Theft

The main difference between borrowing and theft is the intent to commit a criminal act, also called the mens rea. As long as you just forgot to return an item after getting permission to use it, prosecutors can’t charge you with theft.

It’s also very difficult for prosecutors to meet the burden of proof and demonstrate that you intended to steal something rather than borrow it. Even if you kept quiet and hoped that your friend would forget about a borrowed video game, for example, there’s little chance a court of law would accept “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you actively tried to steal it.

However, if there’s hard evidence that you wanted to keep the borrowed item for yourself, that’s a different story. Now you have mens rea, and prosecutors can land you with a theft charge, depending on the wishes of the item’s owner.

Here are some of the most common scenarios where “borrowing” can be considered theft:

  • You didn’t ask for the owner’s permission. Let’s say you take a roommate’s heirloom ring for an upcoming vacation, knowing she never actually wears it. Once you return, however, you discover that your roommate filed a police report. Although the theft charges could be dropped if you’re on good terms, she may not forgive your failure to ask permission.
  • You told other people that you were keeping the item. Even a joking message on Facebook or over text can be used against you by prosecutors. If you told anyone in your social circle that you intended to keep borrowed goods, it could count as criminal intent.
  • You attempted to sell the borrowed property. If prosecutors discover that you were trying to profit from a borrowed item, it’s a clear sign of your true intent, and you will likely face theft charges.

Are you unsure whether an item you’ve borrowed now counts as stolen? As a Miami criminal defense attorney, Michael Mirer can listen to your side of the story, and offer you strong advocacy against any theft charges.

Contact the Law Office of Michael Mirer, P.A. at (800) 798-0243 for a free case evaluation!