Stealing can occur in a variety of different ways. It may involve violence (commonly known as ‘robbery’) or it may be non-violent (commonly known as ‘larceny’). It may also involve stealing the identity of another person rather than stealing tangible physical property. To deal with these various situations, South Australia has a number of stealing offences which are distinguished from one another based on what property was stolen, and the way in which it was stolen. In South Australia, the types of stealing offences are found in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 and, for less serious shoplifting offences, the Shop Theft (Alternative Enforcement) Act 2000.
You commit theft if you deprive somebody of their property permanently, or otherwise seriously encroach on their ownership rights to that property (e.g. treating it as your own to dispose of), and you do so dishonestly and without the owner’s consent. Theft of property may also occur if that property lawfully comes into your possession (e.g. property you receive from your employer but you don’t return on the termination of your employment). Theft also occurs if you receive stolen property from another person, however if you honestly believe that you have acquired title to property and it turns out there is a defect in the transferor’s title then you will not have committed theft.
The maximum penalty for theft is 10 years imprisonment. However, the maximum penalty is extended to 15 years imprisonment if you commit this offence in aggravating circumstances (e.g. you steal from a child under 12 years old or a person over 60 years old).
Shoplifting offences are a form of theft and can be dealt with under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935. For minor shoplifting offences (i.e. less than $150), provided you are over 18 years old, not an employee of the victim of the offence and the victim consents, you may be issued with a shoplifting infringement notice under the Shop Theft (Alternative Enforcement) Act 2000. In these circumstances, you will be cautioned and must pay for the value of the goods you have shoplifted. If the value of the goods shoplifted is greater than $30, you may also be required to do community service. You will not be required to go to court.
You commit robbery if, during the process of a theft, you use or threaten to use force on another person (either so that you can commit the offence or escape from the scene where the theft was committed). The maximum penalty for this offence is 15 years imprisonment. However, if you commit robbery in aggravating circumstances, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. This can include, for example, jointly committing robbery with another person, using an offensive weapon to commit the robbery, or robbing a child.
You commit identity theft when you use another person’s personal identification information in order to commit a serious criminal offence (e.g. using someone else’s credit card number). It is an offence regardless of whether the person whose personal identification information you are using is dead or alive, or whether that person has consented to you using their personal identification information. The maximum penalty for committing identity theft is the same as the maximum penalty that is applicable for the offence committed when using that personal identification information.
Serious criminal trespass occurs if you enter somewhere for the purposes of committing theft. For example, you will be guilty of sacrilege if you break and enter a place of worship and steal property. The maximum penalty for sacrilege is life imprisonment. If you trespass into a place of residence for the purposes of committing theft, you will commit the offence of serious criminal trespass, which is punishable by 15 years imprisonment. If you do so in aggravating circumstances (e.g. using or threatening to use an offensive weapon to commit the theft, or if you know somebody is home when you trespass), you face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Committing serious criminal trespass of non-residential premises generally has lighter penalties, although the maximum penalty is still 10 years imprisonment and 20 years imprisonment in aggravating circumstances.