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The offence of stealing has a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment in the majority of cases, this covers the more common situations of stealing everyday items of property.

In certain circumstances, the maximum penalty increases to lengthier terms imprisonment ranging between 10 to 14 years. These include stealing property such as vehicles, wills or any property valued at over $5,000.

If the property was stolen from a store and the value is less than $150, Police are able to proceed by issuing an infringement notice.

In Queensland, a court can impose any of the following penalties for a charge of stealing:

The Offence of Stealing:

Sections 391 of the Queensland Criminal Code states:

“A person who fraudulently takes anything capable of being stolen, or fraudulently converts the person’s own use or to the use of any other person anything capable of being stolen, is said to steal that thing.”

It also contains the following deeming provisions:

  • “A person who takes or converts anything capable of being stolen is deemed to do so fraudulently if the person does so with any of the following intents, that is to say-
    • an intent to permanently deprive the owner of the thing of it;
    • an intent to permanently deprive any person who has any special property in the thing of such property
    • an intent to use the thing as a pledge or security
    • an intent to part with it on a condition as to its return which the person taking or converting it may be unable to perform;
    • an intent to deal with it in such a manner that it can not be returned in the condition in which it was at the time of the taking or conversion;
    • in the case of money – an intent to use it at the will of the person who takes or converts it, although the person may intend to afterwards repay the amount to the owner.

What Actions Might Constitute Stealing?

  • Receiving $50 from a friend as a loan with no intention of repaying the money.
  • Eating a chocolate whilst shopping at Coles and not paying for it.
  • Failing to hand in a mobile phone or wallet found in a licensed premises.
  • Siphoning petrol from a parked car.

What the Police Must Prove:

In order to convict you of stealing, it must be proved that:

  • The property in question is a thing capable of being stolen.
  • The thing is owned by a person.
  • In taking the thing, it must have actually been moved or dealt with by some physical act.
  • The taking of the thing was done so without the owner’s consent.
  • The taking was done so with fraudulent intent.

Possible Defences to Stealing:

Possible defences to this offence include but are not limited to:

  • The property or thing is not capable of being stolen.
  • The accused had the consent of the owner.
  • The accused mistakenly thought they had the consent of the owner.
  • The property was abandoned by the owner.
  • The accused was under duress to take the property.
  • The accused was not the person who took the property.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

Stealing is an offence that is predominately heard and determined in the Magistrates Court.

Types of penalties:

Imprisonment : Even though it is not a sentence of last resort (as it is in some other states) imprisonment is the most serious penalty which a court can impose upon a person. At its most severe a sentence of imprisonment means that a person must spend a specified period of time within a correctional facility, also called a prison, a jail or a gaol. Read more.

Intensive corrections order (ICO): An Intensive Corrections Order (‘ICO’ for short) is, technically, a form of imprisonment but which is served wholly in the community. This means that a person who is made subject to an ICO will not spend any time in prison but will, instead, be required to adhere to a number of requirements that the court will order. Read more.

Probation: A court can make a Probation Order either by itself, meaning the whole of the sentence is probation, or as a component of a sentence of imprisonment, meaning that a person is ordered to serve a period of time (not longer than 1 year) in prison and is then subject to a probation requirement upon release. Read more.

Community service order(CSO): As the name implies, a Community Service Order (‘CSO’ for short) is an order which requires a person to perform unpaid work, normally at some kind of community facility, for a stated number of hours (to a maximum of 240) within a nominated time (usually 6 or 12 months). Read More.

Recognisance: A recognisance is a promise which a person makes to be of good behaviour for a stated period of time. A court is empowered to release a person who enters into a recognisance, either with a surety, which is a sum of money which the person agrees to pay if they breach the recognisance, or without one. Read More.

Fines: A court is empowered to impose a fine, which is a sum of money which a person is required to pay to the State, for any offence regardless of whether the law creating it nominates a fine as part of the applicable penalty. Read More.

Section 19 dismissal: A court can discharge a person absolutely, or upon them entering into a recognisance, without recording a conviction against them, if it is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so. Read More.

In all cases where you are sentenced to a penalty other than jail, the Court can choose not to record a conviction against you, meaning your criminal record will remain clear and any complications with work or travel may be avoided.


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