Grand Theft Defenses

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Is Grand Theft?

The criminal offense of theft involves the taking of another individual’s property without their authorization or permission. In order for an action to be a theft, it must be done with the intent to permanently deprive the victim of their property.

There are laws in many states that characterize theft as either petty or grand theft. Of the two offenses, grand theft is the more serious crime.

Grand theft is a serious criminal offense involving money or property theft. It involves stealing money or property worth more than money or property stolen in a petty theft.

Typically, property theft valued at more than $500 or, in some states, $1,000 is categorized as grand theft. In the majority of jurisdictions, grand theft is categorized as a felony.

Grand theft may also be referred to as grand larceny in certain areas. Grand theft may also overlap with other criminal issues, for example:

  • White-collar crime;
  • Robbery, which is a theft that involves the use of force; or
  • Embezzlement.

It is important to note that grand theft auto is a separate crime that specifically involves vehicle theft.

What Are Examples of Grand Theft?

Examples of grand theft include, but are not limited to:

  • Stealing jewelry from a jewelry store that has a value of over $950;
  • Stealing a wallet from a purse that is physically touching the rightful owner; or
  • Stealing a computer or a mobile device.

For a specific example, the following takings are classified as grand theft, referred to as grand larceny, in the State of New York:

  • Property that is obtained by extorting another individual;
  • Extortion is the taking of property using threats to do harm or expose information;
  • The property was taken from the person of another individual;
  • The taking of a motor vehicle valued over $100;
  • The theft of a credit card or debit card;
  • Secret scientific material; and
  • Any property valued at over $1,000.00.

If the theft involves property that has a monetary value over a specific amount, for example, property valued at over $1,000.00, the value of that property must be determined. The value is typically considered to be the market value for the property stolen when the theft occurred.

Is Grand Theft a Felony?

As noted above, grand theft typically results in felony charges. Grand theft may be further categorized into 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degrees.

1st-degree grand theft would be the most serious and severe consequence in those instances. For example, 3rd-degree grand theft may include amounts ranging from $500 to $3,000.

2nd-degree grand theft may involve amounts ranging from $3,000 to $50,000. 1st-degree grand theft may involve amounts from $50,000 or more.

It is important to note that the amounts may vary by jurisdiction. Typically, however, 1st-degree grand theft charges are very serious cases that may require prosecution.

The penalties and sentencing for grand theft may depend on the total stolen amount.

How Is Stolen Property Valued?

In a grand theft case, determining the property’s value or money stolen will be a key factor. The prosecution must prove that the stolen property exceeds the grand theft minimum amount.

Otherwise, the individual who is accused, or the defendant, cannot be convicted of grand theft. The value of the property stolen may be determined using a variety of methods, including:

  • Fair market value;
  • The highest reasonable value; or
  • The retail value.

What Are the Penalties for Grand Theft?

If a defendant is convicted of grand theft, they may be sentenced to a prison term of between one year and five years, depending on the state where the crime occurred. The defendant may also face criminal fines if they are convicted.

The fines that will be imposed will depend on the value of the stolen property. A defendant who is convicted may also be ordered to pay restitution.

Restitution involves a defendant making payments to compensate for the victim’s financial losses. For example, if the defendant committed grand theft and damaged the property stolen, which lowered the value of that property, the defendant may be ordered to return the property and pay for the cost of the repairs needed.

Does a Defendant Charged With Grand Theft Have Any Defenses?

A defendant who is charged with grand theft may assert certain defenses, including:

  • The prosecution has not proven the elements of the offense: This means that the prosecution has failed to prove one or more of the following elements:
    • The taking was unauthorized: The defendant may assert that the taking was made with permission or that the taking was authorized;
    • The offender did not specifically intend to deprive the victim of the property permanently: For example, if the defendant, at the time of the taking, decided they only wanted to steal the property for a short period, the intent to permanently deprive is not present. In these cases, the defendant’s actions may still constitute a crime, or the defendant may be sued in civil court;
      • However, the defendant has not committed theft or larceny because the intent to permanently deprive is not present; or
    • The theft constitutes petty theft, not grand theft. If, for example, the defendant can show at their trial that the value of the property taken was less than the amount required to have committed grand theft, then the defendant has committed petty theft, not grand theft; or
    • The market value does not reach grand theft: In cases where the value of the property is in dispute, each side will have the opportunity to present evidence as to what they believe the market value of the property is;
      • If the court rules that the defendant’s evidence showing the property is below the grand theft minimum amount is more persuasive than the prosecution’s evidence, the defendant may be sentenced for to petty theft instead of grand theft, assuming the prosecution established all of the other elements of the crime; or
  • Lack of intent to steal: If the defendant took the property with the belief that the property was theirs, the intent to steal the property of another individual was not present;
    • A grand theft conviction requires that the defendant intended to permanently deprive another individual of their property at the time of taking. If the defendant intends to borrow the property merely or to keep the property as repayment of a debt they were owed, the defendant has not committed grand theft;
    • In addition, the defendant cannot be found guilty if the property that was taken was abandoned; and
    • The defendant may also be found not guilty if the defendant took the property with the intent to pay for it, if it was for sale, at a later time.

Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer for Grand Theft Charges?

If you have been charged with grand theft, contacting a criminal defense attorney is essential. Your attorney can evaluate your case, assist you with preparing a defense, and represent you in court.

Because grand theft charges may result in a felony conviction, it is very important to have legal representation throughout the process. Felony convictions may impact many areas of your life in addition to your criminal record, including, but not limited to, your ability to own firearms or get a job.

Law Library Disclaimer


16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer