What Is Criminal Conversion?

Did you borrow an item but then the owner forgot about it and accused you of theft? Even if you prove that you did not intend to permanently keep the item, you can be charged with criminal conversion. And you must get in touch with a skilled Evansville property crimes lawyer to start building your defense.

This is not a simple misunderstanding that will go away by itself. You are facing a criminal trial and, if convicted, large fines and time served in prison. So let us understand this specific type of property crime and how you may defend yourself.

How Indiana Law Defines Criminal Conversion

The offense of criminal conversion is defined as knowingly and intentionally taking someone’s property on a temporary basis. This is what makes the difference between conversion and theft in the eyes of the law – the lack of intent to deprive the rightful owner of their property permanently.

Nonetheless, this is still a criminal charge which will end up on your record if you are convicted.

Is Criminal Conversion a Misdemeanor or a Crime?

This is where matters get more complex. Most instances of conversion are classified as Class A misdemeanor. However, there are three distinct instances where the act of conversion is classified as a felony:

1. Unauthorized Control of a Motor Vehicle

Taking temporary control of a motor vehicle to assist another person in committing a crime is a Level 6 felony. For example, taking your neighbor’s (or even a friend’s or relative’s) car to help someone commit a misdemeanor.

2. Motor Vehicle Used in a Felony

Looking at the scenario above, if you take someone’s car to help another person rob a bank, you assisted them in committing a felony. In this case, the criminal conversion is classified as a Level 5 felony.

3. Failure to Return Leased Vehicle

When you lease a car, you agree with the leasing company to return it at a certain place and on a certain date. If you fail to return it within 30 days after this agreed date or within 3 days after the leasing company’s written demand to do so, you will be charged with a Level 6 felony.

using a vehicle to commit a crime represents a separate offense

Instances of Criminal Conversion

The legal definition of conversion will be used by the prosecution in the widest possible meaning. This is why you must consult with a skilled Evansville property crimes lawyer as soon as possible after being charged.

In our experience, you can face conversion charges for any of the following actions:

  • Using property without authorization – if you use your neighbor’s laptop to check your email without getting their permission, you can be accused of conversion
  • Altering property – making changes to someone else’s property in a manner that deprives them of its original value is a criminal offense
  • Refusing to return borrowed items – presuming you had the owner’s agreement to borrow an item, if they demand it back within a shorter period of time than agreed and you refuse to return it, you can be charged with criminal conversion
  • Unauthorized use of funds – if you are entrusted with funds for one purpose and use them for a different purpose, this action could result in a conversion charge
  • Misappropriating company property – taking a laptop from work to use it at home over the weekend without your employer’s permission can also result in being charged

Potential Defenses to Criminal Conversion Charges

The possibility of facing misdemeanor or criminal charges is very real even in situations that appear to you as innocent and easy to explain away. This is why you should not try to defend yourself before the authorities, but let an experienced attorney identify the best course of action.

The most common defenses to this charge are:

  • Lack of intent: you did not mean to take or use someone’s property without permission, because you thought you had permission to use it
  • Ownership – you mistook someone’s property for your own (for example your neighbor’s toolkit which looks just like yours)
  • Implied consent – the owner did not say you could use the item, but they implied it or did not explicitly say no
  • Return of property – if you return the property and make up for any damage or loss sustained by the owner, the prosecution may agree to drop the charges or reduce their severity

Talk to an Experienced Evansville Property Crime Lawyer If You Are Charged with Conversion!

A conversion charge can appear out of a simple misunderstanding and snowball into a criminal sentence. This is why you cannot downplay its potential outcomes, even if you believe that you can resolve the situation with the property owner.

Once the prosecution opened a case against you, there is no turning back. You will need a skilled Evansville property crimes lawyer to examine the evidence against you and build your defense.

Contact Verdelski Miller as soon as possible to schedule a free case evaluation at 812-247-6453!

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