What is considered theft?

Theft, or larceny, typically refers to the nonviolent taking of property in face-to-face confrontations. The nonviolent factor sets theft apart from the crime of robbery, which involves some form of violence in connection with a theft. Many states have done away with their state "larceny" codes and replaced them with general theft statutes.  "Theft" can encompass numerous different violations ranging in their severity. Petty theft, for example, is the most minor type of theft. Depending on the laws of the state in which the incident occurred, the value of the stolen property has to be valued below a certain dollar amount to be considered petty theft. A common example of petty theft is shoplifting. If the value of the stolen property is above that amount, it is classified as "grand theft." ("Grand theft auto," or the theft of an expensive-enough car, is a common example of this.) Other circumstances, like whether or not property has to actually have been removed from the premises to be considered theft (in many states it doesn't--to have simply "carried away" the property is enough to be convicted) vary by state, so it is important to consult your state's laws if you are being accused of theft. In cases of petty theft, it is possible for defense attorneys to negotiate "civil compromises" or case diversions in exchange for dismissal of charges or decreased charges. 

Other more serious forms of theft include felony identity theft, motor vehicle theft and commercial burglary. These can carry heavy penalties --identity theft, for example, can result in federal prison sentences of up to 5 years. If it is Aggravated Identity Theft, which means the person committed other specific crimes like mail fraud, terrorism acts or immigration fraud while using the stolen identity, between two and five years can be added onto sentencing. It is possible for compensation for financial loss, property damage and/or pain and suffering to be awarded to victims of theft as well. 

If you are being accused of a crime, it is important that you exercise your right to legal counsel and obtain a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

This article is not intended to dispense legal advice. 


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