Dishonesty Offences – Stealing

Our experienced criminal law solicitors have prepared a brief overview of the law relating to stealing.  If you or someone you care about is facing a charge of stealing, you need specific advice and should contact Gatenby Criminal Lawyers on 55800120 for advice.

For more information on other criminal charges, visit our DISHONESTY OFFENCES HOMEPAGE.

Stealing – The Law

Section 398 of the Criminal Code of Queensland creates the offence of stealing.  The section provides:

Any person who steals anything capable of being stolen is guilty of a crime

Elements of the offence

To be found guilty of the offence of stealing, the prosecution is required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the following elements:

  1. The accused stole; and
  2. The item was something capable of being stolen.

Definition of Stealing

Stealing is defined in section 391 of the Criminal Code of Queensland to be a person who fraudulently takes anything capable of being stolen, or fraudulently converts to the person’s own use or to the use of any other person anything capable of being stolen, is said to steal that thing.

Fraudulently taken is said to occur in the following circumstances:

  1. an intent to permanently deprive the owner of the thing of it;
  2. an intent to permanently deprive any person who has any special property in the thing of such property;
  3. an intent to use the thing as a pledge or security;
  4. 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;
  5. 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;
  6. 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.

Definition of Property

Property is defined in section 1 of the Criminal Code of Queensland.  It includes:

  1. every thing animate or inanimate that is capable of being the subject of ownership; and
  2. money; and
  3. electrical or other energy, gas and water; and
  4. a plant; and
  5. an animal that is—

    (i) a tame animal, whether or not naturally tame; or

    (ii) an untamed animal of a type that, if kept, is usually kept confined; or

    (iii) an untamed animal in a person’s possession or being pursued for return to possession after escape; and

  6.  a thing produced by an animal mentioned in paragraph (e) ; and
  7.  any other property real or personal, legal or equitable, including things in action and other intangible property.

Maximum penalty

The maximum penalty for an allegation of stealing is five (5) years imprisonment.  This penalty is increased in the following circumstances:

  • Stealing wills                                                       14 years imprisonment
  • Stealing from the person                                  10 years imprisonment
  • Stealing by persons in the public service      14 years imprisonment
  • Stealing by clerks and servants                       10 years imprisonment
  • Stealing by directors or officers of comp      10 years imprisonment
  • Stealing by agents                                              10 years imprisonment
  • Stealing property greater than $5,000         10 years imprisonment
  • Stealing by tenants or lodgers >$1,000        10 years imprisonment
  • Stealing after previous convictions                10 years imprisonment
  • Stealing of a vehicle                                           14 years imprisonment
  • Stealing by looting                                             10 years imprisonment
  • Stealing firearm for use in indictable off      14 years imprisonment
  • Stealing firearms or ammunition                  10 years imprisonment


Jurisdiction – Where will the matter be heard?

The offence of stealing is an indictable offence.

The charge will initially be commenced in the Magistrates Court, and can usually be finalised in the Magistrates Court.  For some offences, where there is a circumstance of aggravation the matter must proceed on indictment to the District Court of Queensland.

Conviction – Does a conviction have to be recorded?

The sentencing Court has a discretion whether or not to record a conviction against you for the criminal offence of stealing.  Generally a conviction would be recorded for this type of offence, although one is not inevitable.

The relevant factors are set out in section 12 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, and include, the nature of the offence, the offenders character and age, together with the impact the recording a conviction would have on the offenders chances of finding employment. If you are concerned about a conviction being recorded on you or a loved you should seek legal advice.


This website contains general information about legal matters.  The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such.  You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to legal advice from your lawyer or other professional legal services provider.  You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information on this website.

For specific legal advice you should immediately contact Gatenby Criminal Lawyers on (07) 5580 0120.

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