Theft is a broad term in the legal world. This word can encompass everything from grand theft auto to shoplifting. There are two main types of charges one can receive if they are caught taking someone else’s property, whether it’s permanently or temporarily. One could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, the latter of which involves larger fines and longer prison sentences.
Type of Theft Charge and a Person’s Background
The type of charge depends on a person’s criminal background. Someone who does not have a criminal background will be charged with a misdemeanor. Anyone who has had multiple issues with theft can expect the charge to be a felony. This is why people need to be proactive when charged with a crime, and fight the charge.
The Value of Stolen Item
Another difference between felony and misdemeanor charges is the items’ value. Most states today have laws that establish the values that separate the charges. If more than one item was stolen, the value is tallied for all stolen property. In many states, felonies are linked to a stolen value of $400 or more. If the value is less than this, a person can expect a misdemeanor charge. Petty theft usually links to misdemeanors, or low value theft, whereas grand theft refers to felonies.
Type of Property Stolen and Sentencing for Theft
There are certain items that are automatically categorized as felonies. For example, someone who steals a gun faces a felony in many states. Misdemeanors are less serious and thus, usually involve a low fine and a possible short jail sentence, although, fines are more common than prison time. The fines are used to pay restitution to the victim and pay back the property value. Felonies usually involve jail time and hefty fines. Additionally, felonies can keep people from voting or holding a public office, among other rights.
In order for people to be convicted of theft, the person has to know the property in question belongs to someone else. People should know that one does not have to keep the item in question to be convicted of theft. Even those who possessed the property for a short amount of time can be convicted of misdemeanor or felony theft.