Whilst everyone has their own idea about what stealing is, the offence of stealing is quite complicated. However, in its simplest terms, stealing occurs when someone fraudulently takes a thing owned by another, or fraudulently converts to their own use a thing owned by another. The most common example of stealing is when a person takes something, with intent to permanently deprive the owner of the thing.
A person who takes a thing and deals with it in a manner whereby it cannot be returned to the owner in its original condition commits the offence of stealing, as does a person who takes money and spends it, even though that person may have intended to repay the money at some later stage. A person who finds a thing, and does not make a reasonable attempt to find its owner also commits the offence of stealing. This is sometimes referred to as stealing by finding. A reasonable attempt to find the owner might simply be handing the item in to police.
A person found guilty of stealing is liable to imprisonment for up to five years. Note however, that it is very rare for a person to be punished with the maximum penalty. A person who does not have any criminal history, or who has little criminal history, will be dealt with more leniently than a repeat or habitual offender.
Also, the penalty will depend upon the value of the thing stolen. For example, a person who steals a compact disc may receive a fine, whereas a person who steals a diamond ring valued at half a million dollars may receive a period of imprisonment. Other penalties which may be imposed upon a person convicted of stealing are a good behaviour bond, community service, probation, or a suspended period of imprisonment.