Theft, also called larceny, is a term that simply put refers to stealing. Theft may be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on various factors. Theft generally applies to taking property that doesn’t belong to you, not including land, which is covered under other laws. In addition to stealing personal property, theft also includes embezzlement and fraud. Embezzlement occurs when property or money is diverted by an employee for personal use. Fraud happens when someone is scammed out of money or property. Because the term theft covers a wide array of possible crimes, the penalties for conviction vary greatly as well.

Grand Theft and Petty Theft

First degree theft is also known as grand theft. It is a more serious crime than petty theft. What makes a theft a grand theft? A theft is typically defined as a grand theft if the dollar amount of the stolen property exceeds $300. It also applies to specific types of property. For example, stealing a car is considered grand theft, no matter the value of the auto. Most other thefts are considered petty thefts. Shoplifting is usually a petty theft, unless the value of the stolen merchandise exceeds $300. Additionally, if you are a repeat offender a petty theft may be considered a grand theft. This may happen when a prior theft conviction is used to upgrade the current theft charges.

Receiving Stolen Property

Many people wonder if receiving stolen property is a crime. Receipt of stolen property is a theft crime under certain circumstances. If someone receives property that they know or suspect to be stolen, they have committed a crime. The person must have reasonable knowledge that the property was stolen, not necessarily through firsthand knowledge. If you should have known that the property was stolen you may be prosecuted for theft. It is illegal to buy or keep stolen goods. Failure to ask where the item originated is usually not usually a plausible defense.

Defending Theft Crimes

The possible penalties for a theft conviction range widely but may include fines, restitution payment, jail time, and probation. A conviction also means you’ll have a criminal record. If you’ve been charged with a theft crime it is best to seek assistance from an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer will review your case to determine the best way to proceed. In some cases, your lawyer may be able to work to get a plea deal or have the charges reduced. If you don’t have a previous criminal record you’ll likely be given a lighter penalty. Your lawyer will work to get the best possible outcome based on the facts of your situation.