Stealing Plants: the roots of criminal charges

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Whilst money doesn’t grow on trees, it does sprout from the stems of rare indoor plants. Recent listings on eBay, Gumtree, and Facebook groups have seen some plant varieties being sold for more than $1,000. This trend also has widespread popularity in cafes, restaurants and workplaces. Those with a green thumb, however, have looked for other ways to reduce the costs associated with purchasing plants.

 

Stealing plants etc in gardens

One of these methods is by propagating plants where a “cutting” is taken from the stem of another plant (approximately 3 to 6 inches long) before placing it in a small pot to grow. Whilst this is a variable option for those who have the permission to take a cutting, those who simply take it from a garden could be convicted of a criminal offence.

As outlined in section 520 of the Crimes Act 1900, a person who steals, or destroys, or damages with intent to steal, any plant, root, fruit, or vegetable produce, growing in any garden, orchard, pleasure-ground, nursery-ground, hothouse, greenhouse, or conservatory, is liable of an offence.

Therefore, taking a cutting for the garden of another person without their permission, this could mean you liable for committing this offence.

This carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and/or fine of $550.

 

Stealing plants etc not growing in gardens

In instances where a plant is not growing in a garden, Section 521 of the Crimes Act 1900 outlines that:

A person who steals, or destroys, or damages with intent to steal, any cultivated root, or plant, used for the food of man or beast, or for medicine, or for distilling, or dyeing, or for any manufacture, and growing in any enclosed land, (not being a garden, orchard, pleasure-ground, or nursery-ground) is liable for an offence.

This offence carries a maximum penalty of a $220 fine.

 

Larceny

A more serious offence that could be committed is the stealing of a plant, known at law as ‘Larceny’. Larceny is deemed an offence under section 117 of the Crimes Act 1900, with the principles derived from case law.

Larceny is committed where a person takes and carries away an item which is capable of being stolen, without the consent of the item’s owner.

For an item to be deemed capable of being stolen it must be tangible and possess some value.

In order for a person to be found guilty of larceny, they must intend to permanently deprive the owner of the item that is alleged to have been stolen.

The offence may not be proved if the person takes the item by mistake, or the person believes that they are legally entitled to take the item (even if this belief is incorrect).

The penalty for larceny depends on the value of the property alleged to have been stolen, ranging from a fine to a term of imprisonment.

  • If the value exceeds $5,000 the maximum penalty is limited to two years imprisonment and/or $11,000 fine;
  • If the value does not exceed $5,000, the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment and/or $5,500 fine;
  • If the value does not exceed $2,000 the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment and/or $2,200 fine.

Therefore, ‘stealing’ and indoor plant worth $1,000 could result in you being liable for two years imprisonment and/or $2,200 fine.

 

Stealing shrubs

These offences also extend to those who steal shrubs. As outlined in section 513 of the Crimes Act 1900, a person who steals, or destroys, or damages with intent to steal, the whole, or any part, of any tree, sapling, shrub, or plant, or any underwood shall, is liable for an offence.

 

The maximum penalty is imprisonment for six months and/or $550 fine.

 

If you or someone you know needs advice or representation for an alleged criminal offence, contact the team at Hamilton Janke Lawyer 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 4038 1666.

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