The conduct that constitutes theft must be knowing conduct, meaning that a defendant must be aware that he or she is committing a crime. The knowing requirement typically comes into play as a defense in misdemeanor theft cases. For example, a person cannot be charged with a crime if he or she forgets to pay a restaurant bill, mistakenly walks out of a store without paying for an item, or uses a good or service that he or she thought was free. The knowing requirement is less of an issue in felony cases, where a judge, jury, or prosecuting lawyer is less likely to believe that a defendant unknowingly acquired a good or service with a substantial monetary value.
Misdemeanor theft penalties are much less severe than felony penalties. The least serious crime is newspaper theft, which is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. The maximum sentence for theft of property other than newspaper valued at less than $100 is 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. A person convicted of theft of property valued at less than $1,000 but more than $100 faces a maximum prison sentence of 18 months and a $500 fine. Failure to return a rental motor vehicle is also a misdemeanor, and carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and a $500 fine.
Repeat offenders will typically face harsher sentences. A defendant with 2 or more prior theft convictions can face up to 5 years in prison for a misdemeanor theft conviction in addition to a maximum fine of $5,000. In order for prior theft convictions to be considered at sentencing, the prosecutor must provide the defense lawyer with notice of prior convictions at least 15 days before trial, or anytime before the acceptance of a guilty plea. If you have been cited or arrested for any theft crime, The Herbst Firm is available 24 hours a day for a free consultation. Benjamin Herbst has handled hundred of these types of cases ranging from miniscule amounts to schemes adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. He has the experience and the dedication to fight for the best possible outcome in your case.