You check your watch, but it’s not April 1. You look outside for hidden cameras, but this is not one of those prank-playing television shows.

You return your attention to the two police officers standing at the door, having decided they must be real. Being accused of theft, or larceny as it’s known in North Carolina, can come as a surprise if you are a law-abiding citizen. Unfortunately, many innocent people are accused of theft each year.

There are several reasons why people wrongly accuse others of stealing:

  • To get you in trouble: Let’s say a work colleague has a grudge against you. They could place an item in your drawer at the office, which is “discovered” after someone reports it missing. Or they could try and entice you into stealing something. Perhaps they leave an envelope with company money in it that you need to go and pay bills. If they write $5,000 on the envelope, but actually put $5,200 inside, hoping you will pocket the extra $200, you could claim entrapment as your defense because you would not have taken it if they had not tried to get you to.
  • They are trying to cover their actions: Saying you stole it when they actually did, is common when people are accused of theft. They blame you to save themselves. If you won someone’s car in a game of cards, they might feel guilty about losing the family car, so when their wife asked them where the car was, they said it had been stolen, rather than admit to gambling. In this case, your defense could be that it is your property because you won it fair and square.
  • They do not remember: Whether someone had drunk a lot, taken a lot of drugs or has a mental health condition which affects their memory, occasionally people do not remember things. Someone may not remember that they gave you something to look after or allowed you to borrow it. When they cannot find it, they call the police to report it stolen. Your defense, in this case, could be that you took the item with their consent.

If you are falsely accused of theft or larceny in North Carolina, seek legal help to defend yourself. Failing to present a proper defense could result in fines, jail time and a criminal record.