Stealing & Theft Offences QLD
Theft is a crime that can be committed in many ways. Queensland has several laws that define different offences involving the theft of property from another person. This article explains the most basic laws and their associated penalties.
Stealing means to take the moveable property of another person, or to convert the property of another to one’s own use, without the owner’s consent and with the intent to deprive the owner of that property permanently.
The maximum sentence for the basic crime of stealing is 5 years. The maximum sentence increases to 10 years if:
- The property is worth more than $5,000.
- The property is a firearm or ammunition.
- The property is taken from the person of another (such as stealing a wallet from a person’s pocket).
- The property is stolen from a vehicle used to deliver property or from a place where property to be delivered is stored.
- The property is stolen from a wrecked or stranded vehicle.
- The property is stolen during a riot or natural disaster.
- The property is stolen from a public office.
- The property is government property and the thief works for the government.
- The thief uses a key to open a locked room or container in order to steal the property.
- The property is stolen from a dwelling and is worth more than $1,000.
- The property is stolen from a dwelling and the thief uses or threatens violence.
- The property is stolen from the thief’s employer if the thief is a clerk or servant.
- The property belongs to a corporation of which the thief is an officer or director.
- The thief had access to the property via a power of attorney or certain other positions of trust.
- The thief has been previously convicted of an indictable offence or two summary offences.
The maximum sentence increases to 14 years if:
- The property is a vehicle.
- The property is a firearm that the thief intends to use to commit another indictable offence.
Under some circumstances, taking something worth less than $150 might be treated as a regulatory offence rather than the offence of stealing. See “shoplifting” below for examples.
Burglary is the entry into the dwelling of another with the intent to commit an indictable offence. Stealing is the most common offence intended during a burglary but the crime is committed if the burglar intends to commit any indictable offence, including murder. The intent to commit an offence distinguishes burglary from a mere trespass.
The maximum sentence for burglary is 14 years. However, the maximum sentence is life if the burglar:
- Actually commits an indictable offence while in the dwelling.
- Damages or threatens to damage property.
- Is or pretends to be armed.
- Enters at night.
- Enters with an accomplice.
Enters by means of a “break.”
Entering by means of a “break” means entering by opening a door, window, or covering, or by entering through a place (like a chimney) that is not designed for entry. It is not necessary to open a lock or to break anything when entering by means of a “break.”
Fraud is the use of dishonesty to obtain the property of another person or to gain a benefit that belongs to another person. Fraud can be committed in a variety of ways but it always involves deceiving another person or institution.
The maximum sentence for fraud ranges from 5 to 12 years depending on the nature of the crime and the identity of the victim.
Stealing property from a store is shoplifting. Offences that are treated in a similar way include leaving a hotel or restaurant without paying or consuming food inside a supermarket without paying for it.
If the value of the property that is stolen or consumed is less than $150, the offence is punished by a fine only. If the value is $150 or more, the offence is charged as stealing or fraud.