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What is Criminal Theft?
Theft involves taking the property of another without consent, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of the property. Theft is a crime in every state but each state’s laws may be a little different. Theft offenses range from grand theft to petty theft and can be charged as an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony.
What Are Types of Theft Crimes?
There are different types of theft crimes, depending on how the property was taken, the relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim, and the force used to take the property. Types of theft crimes include:
- Larceny: another term for theft of property, including cash, phones, or credit cards.
- Embezzlement: theft by someone in a position of trust or authority over the items taken.
- Theft by false pretenses: using false claims or representations to gain property of another.
- Robbery: taking property from another by use of force or fear.
- Burglary: breaking and entering a dwelling with the intent to commit theft or a felony crime.
- Car theft: theft of a motor vehicle.
- Theft of services: obtaining valuable services by force, threat, or false representations.
- Shoplifting: theft of goods or merchandise from a retail store.
- Identity theft: using the personal identifying information of another to commit a crime.
Can Theft Charges Be Dropped?
Theft charges can be dropped. However, it is not necessarily up to the store owner or property owner to decide whether or not you are charged. It is up to the prosecutor to decide whether to press criminal charges or drop the criminal charges. Even if you give the property back and the owner does not want you to be charged with a crime, the prosecutor can still bring charges, and if there is enough evidence, you may be convicted of criminal theft.
What Are the Penalties for Theft?
Theft can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor offenses are punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine. Felony offenses can include sentencing for more than a year of jail time. The penalties may depend on a number of factors, including:
- Value of stolen items
- Type of theft
- Prior criminal history
- Use of force or threat of violence
- Type of property involved
- Whether the victim was elderly
- Whether theft was from the government
Can You Get a Job After a Theft Conviction?
In addition to criminal penalties, a theft conviction can cause you problems even after you serve your sentence. A felony conviction may hurt your ability to get a job or find housing. Felony convictions may also prevent you from owning a firearm or serving on a jury.
Even a misdemeanor theft offense can hurt your future opportunities. Some jobs and professions require disclosing any criminal convictions, and a prior criminal charge could make an employer think twice about hiring you. Don’t give up hope if you were convicted of theft. You may be able to get your record sealed or the criminal charges expunged so they will not show up in a public background check.
Are There Any Defenses for Theft?
When someone is arrested and charged for theft crimes, they have the right to a legal defense. The prosecutor in a criminal case has to prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If your theft defense lawyer can create any doubt in the minds of the jurors on even one element, then you should not be found guilty of the crime.
Your criminal defense lawyer can build a defense strategy based on the facts in your case. Common defense options include showing you did not intend to steal, there was a mistake about who was the owner, or the police violated your constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure. If the police violated your legal rights in a search or during an arrest, your criminal lawyer may be able to keep the evidence out of court.
How Can a Theft Defense Lawyer Help?
A criminal lawyer can represent you in court to make sure you have an advocate on your side. The state uses lawyers to prosecute criminal cases so it makes the playing ground more level if you have someone to represent your best interests. Before a criminal trial, an attorney can advise you of your rights and represent you during the arraignment or preliminary hearings to make sure you don’t do anything that will hurt your case.
How Much Does a Theft Lawyer Cost?
There is no set cost for hiring a theft lawyer. The cost of hiring a lawyer can depend on the types of charges, the amount involved in the theft, and evidence against you. For example, felony embezzlement charges involving a million dollars with a strong case against the defendant may be much more complex than a misdemeanor charge for shoplifting merchandise worth $50.
The best way to find out how much a theft defense attorney will charge is to contact attorneys in your area who are experienced in criminal defense. A local attorney will understand the local courthouse rules and be familiar with the judge assigned in your case.