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

UPDATED: Oct 20, 2010

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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