Theft felony laws, in general, are property crimes that involve the unlawful taking of another person’s property, with the requisite intent to permanently deprive that person of their property. Theft is commonly used as a general term to reference many different crimes. These may include grand theft, grand theft auto, larceny, receiving stolen property, shoplifting merchandise, embezzlement, and robbery.

Theft is considered a “wobbler” crime, which means a crime can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Whether a crime is considered felony theft may depend on the value of the stolen property and the severity of the theft when other factors are considered. Each state will have laws setting out this amount. 

Depending on what state you live in your charge of theft may vary. For example, if you live in a state that considers theft to be a felony where $1000 or more is stolen and you steal an item worth $2000, you can be charged with a felony.

What Amount of Theft is Considered a Felony?

The amount of theft depends on the jurisdiction that the crime is committed. Another factor is the severity of the theft committed. For instance when a property theft is committed, the stolen property’s value is what determines if the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor. As stated above, the final amount is determined by state law.

In most cases, when the theft is between $500 and $1,000 it is upgraded to a felony. For example, if state A has a theft value of $800 and someone steals a car worth $800 they would be charged with a felony. In contrast, in the same state, if someone steals a television worth $200 the crime would be charged as a misdemeanor. However, the facts of the case may vary based on each situation.

Not only do states consider the difference between misdemeanor and felony theft, but states also differentiate between different degrees of felony theft. To illustrate, some states may have only a 1st degree felony charge while others may go all the way up to 3rd degree depending on the different mitigating factors of each felony theft.

What are Some Different Types of Felony Theft?

Several different types of theft are frequently classified as felonies. This may depend on the value of the property, as noted above, or on the circumstances surrounding the crime. Various other factors can also influence the classification of a theft crime. Listed below are some examples of these crimes:

  • Grand Theft: Grand theft is the unlawful taking of property or money valued at a certain amount, generally over $1,000. In contrast, regular theft would be considered the unlawful taking of items or money valued less than $1,000. To reiterate, the amount will depend on your state’s laws;
  • Grand Theft Auto: Grand theft auto is the illegal taking of another person’s vehicle without their permission;
  • Larceny: Larceny is the intent to deprive another person’s property and is used interchangeably with the term grand theft, depending on your state’s laws;
  • Receiving Stolen Property: Unlike larceny, receiving stolen property does not require someone to physically take someone’s property. Instead, a person can merely receive the property as long as they knew that the property was taken.
  • Embezzlement: Embezzlement involves the taking of funds. It requires a fiduciary relationship between the victim and defendant in which the victim entrusts the defendant with access to and responsibility for funds. Embezzled funds are generally work-related and were to be used for specific purposes not related to personal use by the defendant;
  • Robbery: Robbery is the taking of another’s belongings by use of force or coercion. The force must be imminent.  This crime usually combines violence with theft.

Keep in mind that felony theft can involve both tangible and intangible objects and that the crimes listed above are subject to state laws. In addition, they can vary depending on what jurisdiction they are filed.

What are Possible Penalties for Committing Felony Theft?

Before you reach the penalty stage, the prosecution will need to prove that you committed theft at trial. While the particular elements will depend on your state’s laws and specific type of crime, generally to prove theft the prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant intentionally took another person’s property;
  • The property belonged to someone else and was not the property of the accused;
  • The defendant did not have authorized consent or permission of the true owner; and finally, 
  • The defendant had the specific intent to permanently deprive that person of their property.

If you are convicted of a felony theft crime, you may be sentenced and may face certain penalties. There are many penalties for felony theft depending on the type of theft, the value of the stolen property, your criminal history and other relevant factors. Each state may also have its own guidelines for theft penalties.

Depending on the jurisdiction, there will most likely be jail time involved in your sentence which may range anywhere from 1 year to 20 years in state or federal prison. Besides a prison sentence, you may face steep fines and be ordered to pay restitution to the victim if the stolen property is not returned.

Are There Any Defenses to Felony Theft?

As with any crime, some defenses are available to someone charged with theft. The defense will generally depend upon the unique mitigating factors surrounding the offense. For example, there will be different defenses available for larceny and embezzlement. However, listed below are some of the defenses:

  • Mistake of fact;
  • Mistake of law;
  • Mistaken identity;
  • Consent or authority to possess the item;
  • Lack of intent; and
  • Lack of knowledge.

As stated above, you will need to check with your state’s laws regarding the crime you are charged with in order to determine if any of these defenses are available. A criminal defense lawyer can help you determine this and formulate a viable defense.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer if I am Facing Felony Theft Charges?

While it is possible to represent yourself “pro se” the majority of people who seek advice for felony theft in the United States do so with the assistance of an attorney. There are several different types of felony theft and rules that go along with each one. Therefore having a  knowledgeable criminal lawyer will be an invaluable resource. Your attorney may be able to help you identify whether any defenses will apply to your situation under breaking laws in your area.

Also, a criminal lawyer will advise you and represent you in a court of law. Contacting a criminal lawyer in your area will help assure that you have your legal questions satisfied and can advise you on your options. They can also keep you updated if you have any questions about any changes to or developments to felony theft laws. 

A conviction for felony theft could forever alter your life as you could lose your job and face jail time. Your lawyer will be available to represent you during any court hearings, proceedings, and trial if necessary.