Theft in general is a property crime that involves the unlawful taking of another person’s property, with the intent to permanently deprive that person of their property. Theft is commonly used as a blanket term to refer to many different crimes, such as grand theft, grand theft auto, larceny, receiving stolen property, shoplifting merchandise, embezzlement and robbery.
Theft can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether a crime is considered felony theft may depend on the value of the stolen property. Your state will have laws setting out this amount. For example, if you live in a state where it considers theft to be a felony where $1000 or more is stolen and you steal a car worth $2000, you can be charged with a felony.
There are several different types of theft that are frequently classified as felonies. They may depend on the value of the property, as noted above, or on the circumstances surrounding the crime. Some examples of felony theft crimes are as follows:
- Grand Theft: Grand theft is the unlawful taking of items or money valued at a certain amount, generally over $1,000. In comparison, regular theft would be considered the unlawful taking of items or money valued less than $1,000. Again, this amount will depend on your state’s laws;
- Grand Theft Auto: Grand theft auto is the unlawful taking of another person’s vehicle without their permission;
- Larceny: Larceny involves taking someone’s stolen property to deprive that person’s ability to use the property. It is often used interchangeably with the term grand theft, depending on your state’s laws;
- Receiving Stolen Property: Receiving stolen property does not require someone to actually steal or have the intent to steal. Rather, a person can merely receive property that they knew or should have known was stolen and be charged with this crime;
- Embezzlement: Embezzlement involves the taking of funds. It requires a special fiduciary relationship between the victim and defendant in which the victim entrusts the defendant with access to and responsibility for funds. The defendant then takes the funds for their own personal use and gain. Embezzled funds are often work-related and were to be only used for specific purposes not related to personal use by the defendant; and
- Robbery: Robbery is defined as the taking of another’s belongings by use of force or immediate threat of force. This crime combines violence with theft.
Keep in mind that felony theft can involve both tangible and intangible objects, such as: money, property, services, individual identities or credit card data, documents and records.
Before you reach the penalty stage, the prosecution will have 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 property;
- The property belonged to someone else;
- The defendant did not have permission or consent of the true owner; and
- The defendant intended to permanently deprive that person of their property.
If you are convicted of a felony theft crime, you will be sentenced and may face criminal penalties. Penalties for felony theft will vary depending on the type of theft, the value of the stolen property, your criminal history and other relevant factors.
You will most likely face some prison time, which may range anywhere from 1 year to 10 years (or more) in state or federal prison. In addition to a prison sentence, you may face steep fines and be ordered to pay restitution to the victim if the stolen property is not returned.
The defenses available to someone charged with theft will generally depend upon the unique circumstances surrounding the offense. For example, there will be different defenses available for grand theft auto and embezzlement. However, some commonly asserted defenses to felony theft include:
- Mistake of fact;
- Mistake of law;
- Mistaken identity;
- Consent or authority to possess the item;
- Lack of intent; and
- Lack of knowledge.
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 strong defense.
Felony theft crimes are serious offenses that can carry severe penalties. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer can help you with the success of your case. You may have a public defender appointed to you as well.
A lawyer can assist you with evaluating the strength of the prosecutor’s case and determine how to proceed with defending against the charges. This could include asserting a defense, negotiating a plea agreement and representing your interests at trial.