The act of theft can encompass many things including theft by way of receiving stolen property, theft from a store, theft from a motor vehicle, theft by deception, or simply theft by taking something unlawfully which does not belong to you. Of course some instances of theft are only misdemeanors while others will bring felony charges. There are a variety of factors which determine whether a theft falls under the misdemeanor or felony category, primarily the amount of money of value of the item stolen as well as the type of item stolen, and in the case of a vehicle, the felony or misdemeanor designation will depend largely on prior convictions. Despite what many think, theft charges are hardly a simple matter and in some cases can bring a sentence of time in the state penitentiary. Theft is also known as larceny and in most states is divided into petty theft and grand theft.
In general, petty theft is something such as shoplifting—taking merchandise from a store, library, utility or person which has a value of a maximum of $950. Those who commit the crime of petty theft as a first time offender could be charged with a misdemeanor and could spend up to six months in the county jail. Additionally, the crime of petty theft can cause the offender to pay restitution for the items stolen as well as paying fines, penalties and court costs. In most cases and in most states, first time offenders who commit petty theft can likely avoid jail however subsequent offenses can bring much stiffer penalties. In fact, in many states, the act of petty theft with a prior conviction can result in three years in the state penitentiary.
Should an offender commit grand theft, they have stolen items worth over $950 (or an amount of money which exceeds that figure). The circumstances surrounding the act of grand theft will have a considerable amount to do with whether the offense is charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Grand theft is often considered a “wobbler” charge, meaning it can go either way. A conviction for grand theft could send you to state prison for a number of years, result in probation or parole, force you to pay restitution to your victim, and could also result in court-ordered counseling or community service. Of course you will also be responsible for court fines and fees.
Consequences of a Theft Conviction
If a weapon was used in the commission of the theft crime, harsher penalties will result. Beyond the realm of jail time, fines and other penalties, a conviction for theft can have far-reaching consequences you may never have imagined. Your entire employment future could be impacted as it can be difficult to gain employment with either a misdemeanor or felony conviction on your records. You may be unable to seek a professional license of any kind, and if you are currently in a lucrative career, you may find yourself let go from that job particularly if you handle money, are the bookkeeper or you are involved in investments, stocks or bonds.
The Necessity of an Attorney
Your attorney can be the single greatest asset between a conviction and either a dismissal or a plea bargain for reduced charges. It’s important that you contact your attorney early on in the process to allow him the necessary time to fully investigate all the fact, to interview victims and obtain statements, to contact the prosecutor’s office and possibly to negotiate a civil settlement as an alternative to a criminal prosecution. Don’t wait—contact an experienced attorney today.