I used this ladies credit card to buy a $1 pregnancy test (without permission) while I was doing her shopping but I returned the money. Now she is claiming it is theft. I was wanting to know if it is so?

  • 1
    Did you intend to return the money from the beginning, or did you only return upon her noticing the unauthorized purchase?
    – Greendrake
    May 21 '20 at 14:52
  • Hi Michelle, welcome to StackExchange. I encourage you to take the tour, as we are a little different from other sites. For example, please do not respond to questions with an answer, but rather edit your question or respond with a comment.
    – sharur
    May 21 '20 at 15:09
  • Returning the money after you get caught would be weak proof of your intent to do so. We don't know the actual law because you haven't told us where you live.
    – Tiger Guy
    May 21 '20 at 15:21
  • Why the downvotes? While the question may be a bit naive, it is a valid, well-written, on-topic question.
    – sleske
    May 22 '20 at 12:44

Depends where you are

At common law, theft (or more generally, larceny) requires an intent to permanently deprive the owner of possession.

However, many jurisdictions have removed this element from the crime. For example, s118 of the Crimes Act 1900 says:

118 Intent to return property no defence

Where, on the trial of a person for larceny, it appears that the accused appropriated the property in question to the accused's own use, or for the accused's own benefit, or that of another, but intended eventually to restore the same, or in the case of money to return an equivalent amount, such person shall not by reason only thereof be entitled to acquittal.

  • Another complication: Even if theft requires intent to permanently deprive, OP would need to prove that they intended to return the money all along. It is not enough to return the money, you need to make a credible case that you never intended to keep it. Otherwise there was "an intent to permanently deprive", you just changed your mind later.
    – sleske
    May 22 '20 at 12:52

In Germany, the situation is similar to the one under Common Law (as explained in Dale M's answer):

Theft (Diebstahl in the Strafgesetzbuch, the German criminal code) is defined in §242 Strafgesetzbuch as:


Wer eine fremde bewegliche Sache einem anderen in der Absicht wegnimmt, die Sache sich oder einem Dritten rechtswidrig zuzueignen, [...]


Whoever takes movable property belonging to another away from another with the intention of unlawfully appropriating it for themselves or a third party [...]

So, just as under Common Law, the crucial question is whether you intended to return the money all along. If yes, then the definition of theft is not fulfilled.

However, if you originally did not intend to return the money, but did so anyway after you found it, it would still be theft. That would be for a judge to decide. A judge would probably look a the circumstances, such as whether you returned the money after you were found out, or before.

  • Note that the ladies movable property was not taken to unlawfully appropriate it. So the definition of theft would likely not apply. There have been cases where someone took a card, withdrew money, returned the card, and theft charges didn’t apply.
    – gnasher729
    May 23 '20 at 14:25
  • @gnasher729: Well, as I wrote, a judge would have to decide what intentions the perpetrator had when using the card.
    – sleske
    May 23 '20 at 17:52

Yes, you purchased something without her permission or authorization.

Whether 1 dollar or 1000, if someone did that to you, right away you're going to be weary the next time.

Justifying an unauthorized purchase, no matter how small, will lead you to keep doing these kinds of things.

It's probably better to mention it beforehand, most of the time, people are willing to help.

  • This is not true in a strict Common Law sense - a lack of intent to defraud vitiates guilt for larceny. Many jurisdictions have passed laws extending the scope of theft laws, though. May 21 '20 at 15:10
  • She was fired from her job for theft, if there weren't any legitimate legal grounds to fire her, she would have a right for recourse, but she doesn't. And I agree with the not quite common law part, if there is a term for larceny but without the intent to deprive the owner of possession, that would probably fit in this situation
    – and1
    May 21 '20 at 15:16
  • @RobertColumbia The state of Georgia has an entire code section on Illegal Use of Financial Transaction Cards. I couldn't find one entry that included intent. Obv the real answer will be specific to the jurisdiction, but in Georgia, there are probably multiple offenses that could be applied.
    – Tiger Guy
    May 21 '20 at 15:19

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