There are detailed laws on the crime of theft, which include a number of different acts. The basic requirement of each of these crimes is that a person willingly or knowingly obtains unauthorized control over property. The property does not have to be a tangle item and can include ideas or services. Theft can be a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the value of the stolen property. Value is determined by the market value of the property or service at the time and place of the crime. If market value cannot be determined, then value will equal the cost of the replacement of the property or service within a reasonable time after the crime occurs. For written instruments such as checks or promissory notes the value under the theft statute is the amount due on the instrument, less any amount that has been paid. If multiple thefts are committed in one continuing course or scheme, prosecuting attorneys have the ability to add up the total value of the stolen property and charge a defendant with one count. State law no longer uses the terms larceny, embezzlement, shoplifting, or receiving stolen property, as these crimes all fall under the theft statute.
The most basic form of theft occurs when an unauthorized person obtains property with the intent to deprive the owner of that property. The word deprive is defined as withholding the property of another, and can be permanent or temporary. If the value of the stolen property is $1,000 or more, but less than $10,000 then the defendant faces felony theft charges with a maximum sentence of 10 years. A defendant accused of stealing over $10,000 but less than $100,000 faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. Finally, theft over $100,000 could result in a felony with a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. In addition to fines, the theft statute requires any convicted defendant to restore the property taken to the owner, or to pay the owner the value of the property or services.
There are a variety of defenses to theft charges in addition to constitutional defenses such as wrongful arrest and illegal search and seizure. Benjamin Herbst will be able to evaluate each of these defenses, and determine if one of the statutory theft defenses can apply to your case. A defendant can introduce evidence that he or she made a good faith claim of right to the property involved. This defense would entail admitting to obtaining the property but arguing that possession was not unauthorized. A defendant can also defeat a theft charge by introducing evidence that he or she acted in an honest belief in having a right to the property at issue. This defense can be described as the defense of mistake. A defense lawyer may defend a trade secret theft charge by introducing evidence that the defendant rightfully knew the secret, or obtained the secret from a person other than the owner. Keep in mind that it is not a defense to assert that the owner of the property obtained the property illegally. If your or someone you know has been charged or is being investigated for felony theft, contact The Herbst Firm for a free consultation. We have the experience and the dedication to fight for the best possible outcome for you or a loved one.