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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 30180
Experience:  Criminal Justice Degree, JD with Criminal Law Concentration. Worked for the DA and U.S. Attorney.
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My son was in a relationship and living with his girlfriend/mother

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My son was in a relationship and living with his girlfriend/mother of his child, she showed him her $4500 engagement ring from her first marriage and said when he was ready to propose to her, he should take the ring to the place where it was bought and he would be able to get a discount to upgrade it. They are very low income( she is a waitress and he is on disability because of complications from long term diabetes and severe depression and was the stay at home parent) One month, they did not have money for rent and she told him he had to be a man and come up with the money. Foolishly, without telling her, he took the ring and got a $700 loan against it. He had to pay $86/mo to maintain the loan(not toward loan or interest, just to maintain loan) and after a few months defaulted and lost the ring. At the time they were deciding to break up she noticed the ring was missing and asked for it back. In order to buy time, he lied and told her it was in the shop and he had to have them return it to the old setting. This was in November. He has continued with the lie and told me about it last month. I had him go to the shop to see if they still had it and find out if they had it and how much it would cost to buy it back. They said they did not have it anymore. He is still struggling with severe depression(under treatment) and is the primary caregiver of the baby. He has 55% physical custody and also cares for baby on her days when she works. He is a wonderful father and the baby is what keeps him going. ( She is a fine mother. He just has the greater custody because this was an unplanned pregnancy and she didn't really want to be a single parent. ) He and I are trying to raise money to pay for the ring by selling some of our belongings. I told him he needs to tell her and hope she will accept a thousand dollars now that we raise and $100 a month until we can pay it off. He is afraid to tell her because whenever they are arguing about anything, she already threatens to press charges if he doesn't give her the ring immediately. He is worried, not only about the legal consequences but losing custody of his baby. I keep telling him he has to tell her soon. I am wondering if this is a criminal or a civil offense in the state of California, because we will most certainly get the money back to her eventually. The second part of this problem concerns a planned visit to Massachusetts during the last week of April which is included in the legal custody agreement. I am in Massachusetts, but he is in California where he knows no one except her and her friends. He has a very hard time making friends on his own because of social anxiety. He and his therapist have been hoping that this visit where he can see family and connect with friends will be helpful for his depression. Now when they have arguments she threatens she will press charges about the ring if he takes the baby out of state before she gets her ring. He just keeps getting more and more scared to tell her the truth. He has to tell her soon whether it is civil or criminal but I will be a lot less worried about him if it is civil, so I guess the question is still the same. Is this a criminal offense?

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.

It is a criminal offense to take away the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. If he had gone into her home without permission, taken the ring, and sold it immediately, that would be theft. However, since she gave him permission to take the ring (even if not for that purpose), police would probably call it a civil matter and decline to prosecute. The fact that he used the ring to get a loan and was making payments to get it back also helps establish that he did not have the intent to permanently deprive her of the ring. A civil court judge would definitely order him to repay her, but police would likely choose not to pursue it. They could, but I just don't know that they would. To prove a criminal case, you need to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and there's no evidence of criminal intent here.

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