Grand theft is a serious crime involving thefts of property or money. In most jurisdictions, grand theft is listed as a felony. Grand theft is usually defined as theft that is worth over a certain amount, anywhere from $500-$1,000, depending on the state. Grand theft is also called grand larceny in some areas.
Grand theft may often overlap with other types of criminal issues, including white-collar crime, robbery (theft involving the use of force), or embezzlement. Grand theft auto is a separate crime that specifically involves the theft of an automobile.
What are Examples of Grand Theft?
The following would be examples of grand theft:
- Stealing jewelry from a jewelry store that is valued at over $950
- Stealing a wallet from a woman’s purse that is physically touching its rightful owner
- Stealing a computer or a mobile device
Is Grand Theft a Felony?
As mentioned, grand theft will usually result in felony charges. In addition, grand theft can sometimes be further categorized into degrees, such as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree grand theft (with 1st degree being the most serious and resulting in the most serious consequences).
For instance, 3rd degree grand theft may cover theft cases ranging from $500 to $3,000; 2nd degree may cover $3,000-$50,000, and 1st degree will cover cases involving $50,000 and up. Again, such figures may be different in each jurisdiction. However, 1st degree grand theft charges are usually very, very serious cases that require prosecution through the use of a grand jury. Therefore, penalties and sentencing for theft may depend on the total amount stolen.
How is Stolen Property Valued?
In grand theft cases, determining the value of stolen objects is a key factor. Prosecutors must be able to prove that the stolen property exceeds the grand theft minimum. Otherwise, the accused person cannot be convicted of grand theft.
Property value is determined by a variety of methods. Property value may be determined by fair market value, the highest reasonable value, or the retail value.
Which Office Prosecutes a Grand Theft Case?
The district attorney’s office typically handles felonies. The city attorney’s office typically handles misdemeanors. Some jurisdictions only have a district attorney’s office. In those cases, the district attorney handles both felonies and misdemeanors.
What if I Believed the Property Belonged to Me?
If the property actually belonged to you, or if you honestly but mistakenly thought the property you took belonged to you, you will generally not be found guilty of grand theft.
If your intentions were not to take the property but instead to claim or re-claim an item that you thought was rightfully yours, you would not be found guilty of grand theft.
What if I Had Consent From the Owner?
If the owner of the property that you allegedly stole gave you permission to take the property, then you will not be found guilty of grand theft.
- Suppose your neighbor gave you permission to borrow a lawn mower. After borrowing the lawnmower, your neighbor accuses you of stealing the lawnmower from him.
In this case, since your neighbor gave you permission to borrow the lawnmower, you are not guilty of grand theft.
What Types of Property are Commonly Stolen?
Grand theft can occur if a specific type of property is stolen, even if that property is not worth the minimum dollar amount required for grand theft. The types of property that may qualify as grand theft or felony theft differ from state to state but typically include automobiles, firearms, or farm animals.
Is There Potential for Additional Penalties?
If you’ve been charged with multiple thefts, whether grand theft or petty theft, additional penalties can be handed out in your case. If the loss exceeds statutory minimums in your state, or if the thefts arise from a common scheme or plan, then additional prison terms may be imposed.
In many states, if the total sum loss exceeds statutory amounts ranging from $50,000 to $2.5 million, and the theft arises from a common scheme or plan, additional prison terms of one to four years may be imposed.
What if Collaborators Steal Multiple Items?
In some cases, multiple people work together to steal items, or a single person steals multiple items as part of the same theft. In some states, the law may group all of the property stolen from a single owner or a single location.
In these states, the value of the individual items is added together to determine whether the theft qualifies as grand theft. In other states, the value of multiple items can’t be grouped together if there were different victims, or if there was no unifying plot to steal.
What Are the Legal Consequences of a Grand Theft Conviction?
As a felony charge, grand theft will result in felony sentences, including criminal fines of greater than $1,000 and a prison sentence of more than one year in a federal facility. Felony charges are somewhat difficult to have expunged from one’s criminal record. The existence of such charges on one’s record may make it difficult for the person to obtain employment or be accepted in certain applications.
In some cases, a defense such as coercion may be available to the defendant, depending on the facts of the circumstances. Also, it may be possible to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor theft charge, again depending on the facts.
If you’ve been charged with grand theft, you may face any of the following consequences:
- Jail or prison time. For misdemeanor convictions of grand theft, a court may sentence you to one year in jail. Felony convictions for grand theft can last much longer. In cases where a theft involved incredibly valuable property or where the person convicted is a repeat offender, a prison sentence of 5 to 20 years or more may be possible.
- Fines. If you’re convicted of grand theft, you may have to pay a significant fine. Misdemeanor fines are typically less than $1,000, but fines for felonies may exceed $100,000.
- Restitution. When you are convicted of stealing something, the court will typically require you to pay restitution, in addition to fines. Restitution costs are paid directly to the owner of the stolen property, while fines are paid to the state as a penalty. Restitution payments are usually equal to the value of the stolen property.
- Probation. A court may also order a person convicted of grand theft to serve a probationary period. Probation usually lasts for at least 12 months, although probations of three years or more are also possible. While on probation, a person must meet specific requirements. A person on probation may be required to meet regularly with a probation officer, find or maintain employment, and pay all fines and restitution within a certain amount of time. Those on probation cannot steal anything else or commit any more crimes.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Grand Theft Charges?
Grand theft charges are very serious, and grand theft laws may vary from place to place. For these reasons, it’s in your best interests to hire an experienced criminal lawyer in your area if you or a loved one of yours is facing grand theft charges. Your attorney will be able to provide you with the legal representation needed for your defense.