Steal from dwelling or house

Stealing property from a dwelling or house is a serious criminal offence in New South Wales (NSW). According to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCA), recorded crime statistics NSW, stealing from a dwelling house is the 12th highest recorded crime in NSW.  More than 16,000 cases were reported between April 2021 and March 2022. With more than 80% of all of those charged with the offence being found guilty, it’s critical that you get an experienced criminal defence team on your side if you are facing charges of stealing from a dwelling house.

Australian Criminal Law Group has a team of defence lawyers who are experienced in defending Stealing from a dwelling or house.  We have great success in having our clients found not guilty of this charge.  We do so by using a range of defences that are available to us including identification (you were not the person who stole the property), that the client intended to return the property that was taken, or that the property belonged to the client or that he believed he had a claim of right to it.

For those that chose to please guilty to stealing property in a dwelling-house, we have a proven track record of getting the best possible results for them.  We keep our clients out of jail and get them section 10s, where no conviction is recorded on their record.

What is Stealing property in a dwelling-house

Stealing property in a dwelling-house, as the name suggests, is the act of stealing from someone’s house, in circumstances where you were lawfully in their home with the consent of the occupants. This is to be contrasted with a break and enter, where there is no consent for the person who steals property to be in the home and the home has been entered unlawfully.

What is a dwelling house?

A dwelling house is any house, vehicle, or boat that a person lives in or is designed for a person to live in, even if at the time nobody is living there.

The definition of a Dwelling-house is outlined in section 4 “definitions” of the crimes act. It states that a dwelling house includes;

  (a) any building or other structure intended for occupation as a dwelling and capable of being so occupied, although it has never been so occupied,

            (b)  a boat or vehicle in or on which any person resides, and

  (c)  any building or other structure within the same curtilage as a dwelling-house and occupied therewith or whose use is ancillary to the occupation of the dwelling-house.”

 What is stealing according to the law in NSW

Stealing is referred to as larceny under the law in NSW. Stealing is the act of taking or carrying away property that isn’t owned or possessed by you, where your intent is to permanently deprive the owner of the property, and where the owner did not consent to you taking it.  The property must be capable of being moved to steal and it must have some value. In some instances, it can also be deemed stealing if you found something and decided to keep it.  This is called larceny by finding.

It is important to note that it is not stealing if the property was borrowed or taken for a temporary purpose with the intention of returning the property.

Penalties for stealing from a dwelling house

Stealing from a dwelling house is a serious charge of larceny that has more hefty penalties than other stealing-related offences.  If found guilty of stealing from a dwelling house, you could be facing a maximum prison sentence of 7 years imprisonment.

What is stealing from a dwelling with menace?

Stealing from a dwelling house with menaces is a more serious offence than stealing from a dwelling house. The base offence is the same as stealing from a dwelling, but it includes an additional ‘element’ for the police to prove, being menacing behaviour was used to take the property.

“Menaces” includes acting in a threatening manner to take action that causes someone of normal stability and courage to act unwillingly out of fear.  This is true only in circumstances where you were aware that the other person was vulnerable to that threat.

Penalties for stealing from a dwelling house with menace

The penalties for this offence are much higher than those for when menacing behaviour is not used. If found guilty of this offence, you could be facing a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

Stealing Property from a dwelling house vs. Break & Enter

Stealing from a dwelling house is different from a break and enter charge.  Where break and enter involve breaking into a secure building, house or dwelling, police only must prove that you took something from a dwelling to be found guilty of stealing from a dwelling house. This offence does not involve “breaking in” or entering a property without the consent of the owner.

Some break and enter charges can be successfully downgraded to stealing property in a dwelling-house.

Pleading not guilty to stealing from a dwelling house

You will be found not guilty of stealing from a dwelling house if the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you.

  • Took property that was capable of being stolen
  • That the property was in a dwelling-house
  • That the property was not yours
  • That you took the property without the owner’s consent
  • That you intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property

You will be found not guilty of stealing from a dwelling house with menaces if the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the above, as well as,

  • That you threatened or menaced someone that was in the dwelling-house

Defences for Stealing from dwelling

The following scenarios do not equate to stealing and so can be used as defences for this offence.

You did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property

A defence to steal from a dwelling house is that you did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

It is not stealing if you did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property at the time of the taking.  If you took the property innocently but then later decide to steal the property, you cannot be found guilty of this offence.  Similarly, if you took the property but weren’t sure if you would keep it or not at the time, you are not guilty of this offence.  An intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property must exist at the time you took the property to be found guilty of this offence and cannot have been formed at a later time.

Claim of Right

If you have a genuine belief that you have a claim of right to the property that has been taken, then you will not be found guilty of this offence.  That is, if you believe you were legally entitled to take the property, regardless of if you believe you were entitled to take it in the manner you did, you will not be found guilty of this offence.

The property was not taken from a dwelling house

If the place where the property was stolen was not a house, vehicle, or boat that a person lives in or is designed for a person to live in then you will not be found guilty of this offence.  A house includes any building or structure within the same curtilage as a dwelling-house or whose use is ancillary to the occupation of the dwelling-house. (e.g. underground car park of an apartment building).

Honest mistake

If you can prove that you took the property by mistake, then you will not be found guilty of this offence.  An example may be taking a similar-looking bag or suitcase to yours.

Pleading guilty to this offence

If you are guilty of stealing from a dwelling-house and you believe that the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of this offence, it is normally best to plead guilty. By pleading guilty early in your case, you receive a 25% discount on the sentence you would otherwise receive. Pleading guilty also demonstrates to the court that you are remorseful for your actions.

It might also be possible for your criminal lawyer to negotiate with the prosecution for you to plead guilty to less serious facts relating to the case.

When sentencing you for your charge, the courts will consider several factors including what was stolen, its value and the nature of the offence.  Subjective factors will also be considered such as if this is your first offence if you have shown real remorse, the likelihood of rehabilitation, and good character references amongst other things.

What to do if charged with stealing from a dwelling house?

Get in contact with the Australian Criminal Law Group on 02 8815 8167 or send us a website enquiry to get the best legal advice and representation.

Australian Criminal Law Group has a team of expert criminal defence lawyers who have represented countless clients facing larceny and stealing from a dwelling house charges and we work tirelessly to get our clients the best results every time.

Australian Criminal Law Group is based in Parramatta, Sydney and Blacktown but we represent clients in all criminal courts in NSW.

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This information is intended as a general guide to law only.  It should not be relied on as legal advice, and it is recommended that you speak with a qualified lawyer about your situation.

Australian Criminal Law Group and its suppliers make every reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information provided on its web pages. At the time of updating, this information was correct, however, given the laws in NSW and Australia are continually changing, the Australian Criminal Law Group makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy.

 

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