Every state has theft laws, although they may differ slightly by jurisdiction. Legal consequences for theft usually include:
- Criminal fines, which are usually proportionate to the amount stolen; higher theft amounts may result in greater fines.
- Jail or prison sentences, which may increase or decrease in severity according to the amount stolen.
- Restitution for some theft cases. This may involve the person returning the stolen property or reimbursing the victim for losses caused by a theft.
- Some other legal consequences for theft may include a loss of rights, such as a loss of the right to bear firearms (these are typically enforced for felony theft crimes).
In some cases, there may be alternative sentencing options for theft crimes. For instance, pre-trial diversion may allow a person to be "diverted" from traditional jail or prison sentences. Instead, the defendant may be allowed to complete community service or other similar programs in lieu of jail time. These are typically reserved for:
- First-time offenders
- Juvenile offenders
- Theft crimes where the total value of the property stolen is very low or negligible
Also, if the defendant has a viable defense for their case, it can assist them in receiving a reduced sentence or dropped charges. A common example of this is where the defendant actually never took possession of the property in question. This may actually constitute a lack of proof that can serve as a defense against the charges. Again, these types of defenses and arguments will vary from case to case, and will also depend on the facts
Defending against theft charges typically requires the guidance and advice of an experienced criminal law attorney. You may wish to hire your own attorney if you need assistance in dealing with a criminal theft case. Your lawyer can provide you with legal guidance and representation so that you understand your rights under state and federal laws. Also, your attorney can help you keep pace with any changes during the trial process.