What Are The Factors That Determine Theft Charges?

What is Theft?

Theft is a type of felony theft that’s defined as the taking of property from another person by use of force, intimidation, or the threat of force. Hence, why it’s sometimes mentioned as “larceny by the threat of force.” A theft lawyer is someone who specializes in this type of case.

In some states, the utilization or threat of force doesn’t have to be directed at the intended victim, however, the threat does have to be immediate and therefore the crime must be committed within the presence of the victim.

If theft is committed with the use of a firearm or other deadly weapon, then it’s going to be considered a heist and can often end in a harsher penalty for the defendant.

Although the laws of every state slightly differ in their definitions of what constitutes theft charge, the overall elements of theft typically include the taking and carrying away of the property of another from their possession or in their presence, that is against their will or by intimidation, force, violence, fear, or threat of force.

It is important to notice that while theft is usually confused with the crime of burglary, they’re not the same thing. Burglary charges involve the breaking of a building or a home with the intent to commit a crime inside.

The primary differences between the two are the “breaking” element and the fact that burglary doesn’t necessarily involve the use or threat of force.

What are Some Factors Used to Determine the Severity of Punishment for Theft Charges?

Theft penalties may differ depending on the degree of theft committed. As an example, a theft that doesn’t result in any injury or severe use of violence is typically considered a second-degree felony in the majority of states.

A theft charge can become a first-degree offense if the defendant uses very dangerous weapons, accomplishes the crime by inflicting a very serious injury to the victim, or attempts to kill the victim during the crime.

Since theft is often considered an inherently dangerous felony where death may be a foreseeable consequence, theft can also become a first-degree felony murder indictment if someone is killed during the crime. This might be true even though the defendant never intended to kill the victim.

Other factors that are generally used to determine the seriousness of theft charge include:

  • Whether the use of a firearm or weapon was involved (i.e., armed theft);
  • The type of property stolen;
  • Where the crime took place;
  • What type of victim was the crime committed against;
  • Whether the defendant has a prior record or if they’re currently on probation;
  • The number of accomplices involved in the commission of the crime, like getaway drivers or lookouts; and
  • Whether the amount of force applied resulted in the injury or death of the victim.

The consequences that a defendant may face for conviction of theft include probation, criminal fines, and imprisonment, starting from a year to a life sentence.

Again, this may depend on the relevant requirements and factors that differ according to each state’s statutes and the degree of theft involved.

Are There Any Defenses to Theft Accusation?

Theft is taken into account as a serious crime in almost every state. For each theft charge, the government will have the burden of proving that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This suggests that each element of the charge must be proven by the prosecution, which the defendant is allowed to rebut through the use of an affirmative defense.

An affirmative defense means that one of the elements of the crime in question can’t be proven for a few specific reasons. For instance, if the defendant took the private property of another, but didn’t intend to steal it (e.g., borrow), then they may be able to assert this as an affirmative defense as long as they can prove it.

Other potential defenses to theft include:

  • Lack of Evidence: If the prosecutor cannot prove certain evidence, like the identity of the defendant, they had an alibi during the commission of the crime, or that nothing was stolen or intended to be stolen, then this might be a defense.
  • True Owner: It could be used as a defense if the defendant believed that they were the true owner of the private property that they took, or maybe if they were the actual owner (this will depend upon the circumstances and proof of ownership are going to be required).
  • Intoxication: If the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated (i.e., intoxicated against their will or without their knowledge), then it’s going to constitute a defense.
    • Also, if the person was voluntarily intoxicated, they might receive a lesser penalty if they successfully argue that they didn’t have the type of intent required to commit theft.
  • Duress: If the defendant was forced by a threat of death or bodily injury to commit the robbery, then they might be able to claim duress as a defense.
    • This sometimes occurs when the defendant is a member of a gang.

An individual who is going through this case should hire an experienced theft lawyer to help him or her with all the legal procedures.

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