Legal Dictionary

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Claim of Right

Claim of right is a defense to theft offenses, where the defendant claims that he took something that belonged to him in the first place. If the property taken from another person belongs to the defendant and the defendant has legal ownership and legitimate claim to the property, then there is no taking and therefore no theft. For example, if Joe sees his own painting hanging on Frank's wall and takes the painting, he can use the claim of right defense if he is charged with theft.