Can I be charged with theft if I sold an item that was supposedly a gift?

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Can I be charged with theft if I sold an item that was supposedly a gift?

Gift given to to me by my girlfriend at the time and then sold after we broke up. She is claiming it wasn’t hers and actually her mother’s and was never a gift. I sold the item after I moved to CA from PA. Her mother is threatening me with their insurance company telling me I will be charged with theft.

Asked on October 20, 2010 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if something is a gift, the giver cannot take it back; the recipient can do anything with it he or she likes, including selling it. If the object was not actually your girlfriend's to give, then if anyone is liable, it should be her, not you, since she's the one who took another's belonging and represented to you it was a gift.

That's the law; it can be difficult to prove that something was a gift if there is nothing in writing to that effect. If the mother insists on claiming you stole it and tells that to insurer and/or police, it may be difficult to resolve the matter quickly and inexpensively. Depending on what  the object is, if it's not too expensive, you may wish to consider trying to work out a reasonable settlement to spare yourself the expense and effort of potentially defending yourself.


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