Free Consultation | Se habla español


when you need it most

Photo of Herbert J. Weston and Tanya L. Weston

Kleptomania as a legal defense for stealing

On Behalf of | Sep 18, 2020 | Firm News

If accused of stealing and presented with indisputable evidence, some people may consider whether a kleptomania defense may work to free them. Many people have attempted to use kleptomania as a legal defense mechanism, but courts rarely accept this. Refusal may stem from the rarity of kleptomania and how alleged symptoms present in the individuals claiming them. 

According to Mayo Clinic, when people truly have kleptomania, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Otherwise, he or she may continue to face legal, financial and career consequences for his or her actions. 

Symptoms of kleptomania

Mental health professionals classify kleptomania as an impulse control disorder. This may cause kleptomaniacs to struggle with resisting the urge to take items, even when it may put them or their loved ones in danger. Specific symptoms include the following: 

  • Trouble resisting the strong desire to steal items the person may not need 
  • Feelings of arousal, tension or anxiety before the theft 
  • Feelings of gratification from the act of stealing 
  • Feelings of self-loathing or guilt after completing the act 

Why it may not work as a criminal defense

Attempting to profit from the stolen item remains one of the biggest giveaways that the accused person may not have kleptomania. According to Britannica, kleptomaniacs rarely put the items they steal to personal or profitable use. Instead, they may even try to return the product. Others give them away or hide them. In fact, most kleptomaniacs have the financial means to pay for the goods they steal. 

Unfortunately, even with treatment, no cure exists for kleptomaniacs. Even so, with continued sessions of psychotherapy, kleptomaniacs may uncover the reasons behind the thrill of the steal and learn to control their impulses.