Drug-Related Theft Crimes

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 What are Drug-Related Theft Crimes?

Many theft crimes are drug-related. The reason for this is that many people who have become addicted to illegal street drugs cannot afford them through basic regular labor. As a result, they may attempt to commit theft, sometimes daily, to support their habit.

Some street drug dealers accept stolen items as payment for illicit drugs. Alternatively, the person purchasing the drugs may try to sell or pawn off the items they stole and use the money they receive to buy the drugs.

In regard to drug-related theft crimes, there is a high rate of repeat offenders who steal regularly because the drugs they use are highly addictive and they do not appear to be able to stop using them, so they need constant infusions of cash in order to make drug buys. Some of the most commonly used street drugs are heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamines, and stolen prescription pain pills (usually for medicines derived from opium).

Most drug-related theft crimes involve the defendant stealing some form of currency (e.g., cash or a credit card) or an item they can resell, such as electronics or jewelry.

What are Theft Crimes?

By definition, theft is a criminal act in which property that belongs to another individual or business is taken without that person’s consent and without intending to return it.

  • Note that burglary, also known as breaking and entering, is not a theft crime – it is entering a building without permission to commit a crime there. If someone enters a home and steals something or does some other form of damage, the defendant will be charged with theft for the stealing and burglary for entering the home.

Under the law, theft is divided into several categories. From least serious to most serious, some of the types of theft are the following:

  • Larceny – Also referred to as simple theft or petty theft, larceny occurs when someone unlawfully takes or uses property that belongs to another party. There are many types of larceny, ranging from minor shoplifting of low-value items to grand theft, which involves stealing quite valuable items.
  • Identity Theft – Identity theft has become an increasingly common crime. This type of theft occurs when someone uses another person’s name, bank account, or credit card without permission. It can be a very high-tech crime involving the use of computer codes by hackers. In connection with drugs, identity theft will most likely be stealing someone’s driver’s license or credit card to commit fraud with the license or to buy something from a store with the stolen credit card.
  • Robbery – Another common type of crime, robbery, occurs when someone uses violence, intimidation, or threats to obtain property. In a nutshell, robbery is a theft with the added element of violence. Robbery is divided by seriousness into those cases where no weapon is used and armed robbery, where a gun, knife, or other dangerous weapon is put into play. For example, if a defendant robs a pharmacy to steal opioids and uses a gun, that’s armed robbery.
  • Fraud – This type of theft occurs when someone deceives another party, coercing them into giving up their property willingly but under false pretenses. Violence is not typically associated with fraud. A frequent drug-related fraud is stealing, altering, or misusing prescriptions.
  • Carjacking – Carjacking occurs when a person uses violence to take someone’s car, truck, or other type of vehicle. In some cases, the criminal takes the car by merely threatening the driver; in others, actual force is used. Both acts are carjacking. Note that if the criminal returns the car to the owner, that’s carjacking; if the criminal keeps the car, that’s grand theft auto (discussed below).
  • EmbezzlementEmbezzlement is a crime in which a person who has access to or lawful possession of money or property fails to return it to its owner, or uses it or spends it in a way it was not intended to be used or spent. Most commonly, it is stealing money or property that an employer allowed the defendant to access for the company’s benefit, and using it for the defendant’s benefit. One clear example is where a pharmacy employee steals cash or drugs from their employer.
  • Grand Theft – Grand theft occurs when the value of the object taken is particularly high. Each state’s statutes have dollar amounts that separate simple theft from grand theft. One well-known form of grand theft is “grand theft auto.”

What are the Punishments of Drug-Related Theft Crimes?

This article discusses possible punishments for state prosecution of drug-related thefts. The state and federal governments can sometimes punish drug-related crimes. Federal drug charges usually result in a more severe punishment than state charges.

Depending on the severity of the crime, drug-related theft can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. By definition, a misdemeanor is a crime that cannot be punished by more than one year in jail, and a felony is a crime that can be punished for more than a year, sometimes up to life in prison. A less serious crime, such as petty theft, will often result in a small fine.

The type of punishment a defendant may receive will largely depend on the seriousness of the crime committed. A less serious crime, such as petty theft, will often result in a small fine and possibly several months (up to a year) in jail, while grand theft will most certainly be prosecuted as a felony.

Crimes that are committed with a weapon or other means of violence are sentenced more harshly than those that do not. Also, repeat offenses are common when it comes to drug-related crimes. A defendant who is facing a second or third theft charge will face greater legal ramifications.

Possible penalties include:

  • Prison time: For misdemeanor theft convictions, a court may sentence the defendant to one year in jail. Felony convictions for drug-related theft can result in much harsher penalties, including 5 to 20 years in prison or more.
  • Fines: Misdemeanor fines are typically less than $1,000, but fines for felonies may exceed $100,000.
  • Restitution: The court will typically require the defendant to pay restitution and fines. Fines are paid to the state, while restitution costs are paid directly to the owner of the stolen property. Restitution payments are usually equal to the value of the stolen property.

There are other penalties that the criminal court judge does not order. A convicted defendant can lose custody of a child. They may be deported. Also, criminal charges, particularly felony ones, are notoriously difficult to expunge from one’s record.

When someone is convicted of a crime (particularly a felony), their records are altered. Having a criminal record may make it difficult for the person to obtain employment or some benefits.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Issues Involving Drug-Related Theft Crimes?

Drug-related theft crimes often have serious criminal consequences. If you are facing charges for a drug-related theft crime, you should strongly consider contacting a local drug crime attorney immediately.

A qualified criminal defense attorney can:

  • Answer any questions you may have,
  • Discuss potential penalties with you,
  • Give you legal advice,
  • Negotiate a plea bargain,
  • Analyze whether there are defenses that apply to your case, and
  • Provide representation on behalf of your best interests in court if necessary.

A local attorney will best know the laws in your state and how they apply to your case.

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