Theft and Property Offenses
Every year, there are tens of millions of crimes committed nationwide, and theft/larceny happens to be one of the most common. Data released by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program reveals that in a single year, there were more than 5.5 million theft crimes committed throughout the United States.
Each state is responsible for setting its own laws regarding theft, including how theft and other property offenses are defined, how they are classified, and how these crimes are penalized. If you have been charged with theft in Alabama, criminal defense attorney Jason Darley, Esq. can help you to understand your options and build your defense.
How Is Theft Defined in Alabama?
As found in Alabama Code Section 13A-8-2, theft of property is defined as knowingly obtaining control over the property of another by deception with the intent of depriving the rightful owner of their property. This means that a prosecutor cannot secure a conviction against a defendant charged with theft by merely offering proof that the defendant took something that did not belong to them; they must demonstrate that the defendant intended to deprive the property owner of the said property.
Degrees of Theft and Related Consequences
There are four degrees of theft that are addressed in Alabama code. These are:
- Fourth-degree theft. Theft of property in the fourth degree is a Class A misdemeanor charge. A person will be charged with fourth-degree theft if they commit theft of property that does not exceed $500, and which is not directly taken from the person of another. For example, shoplifting might be considered fourth-degree theft.
- Third-degree theft. Defined in Section 13A-8-4.1 of Alabama Code, third-degree theft refers to the theft of property that exceeds $500 in value, but does not exceed $1,499 in value, and which is not taken from the person of another. This degree of theft is a Class D felony charge.
- Second-degree theft. When the property that is involved in theft is valued at less than $2,500 but more than $1,500, the crime is a second-degree charge. Theft of the second degree is a Class C felony.
- First-degree theft. When the property involved in a theft crime exceeds $2,500 in value, or when property of any value is taken from the person of another, the crime is classified as first-degree theft. The theft of a motor vehicle, regardless of its value, is also first-degree theft. First-degree theft is a Class B felony charge.
- Class A misdemeanor (fourth-degree theft). A Class A misdemeanor is penalized by a jail term of not more than one year, or/and a fine of not more than $6,000.
- Class D felony (third-degree theft). A Class D felony may be penalized by a period of incarceration of not more than five years, and not less than one year and one day, as well as a fine of up to $7,500.
- Class C felony (second-degree theft). More serious than a Class D felony, a Class C felony carries a potential incarceration sentence of not more than 10 years and not less than one year and one day, as well as a fine of not more than $15,000.
- Class B felony (first-degree theft). The most serious theft offense will be classified as a Class B felony, which is punishable by a fine of up to $30,000, as well as an incarceration period of not less than two years and up to 20 years.
Note that while theft is the most common criminal charge related to property, there are various other property offenses with which a defendant may be charged. These offenses include, but are not limited to:
- Theft of lost property;
- Theft of services;
- Theft of valor;
- Cargo theft;
- Receiving stolen property;
- Bringing stolen property into the state;
- Criminal trespass;
- Criminal mischief;
- Criminal tampering;
- Criminal littering; and
It is best to review Alabama’s criminal code for a full list of crimes related to property, and, if you have been charged with a property-related crime, to immediately retain the counsel of a skilled criminal defense lawyer.
Defenses to Theft and Other Property Offenses
There are various defenses to theft that may be relevant to and applicable in your criminal case. Our lawyer at the office of Darley Law will help you to understand your various options, as well as whether you should plead innocent and defend yourself against the charges against you, or negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution. If you decide to plead innocent and defend yourself, some defenses that may be available to you include:
- True innocence – i.e., you did not commit the theft in question/the prosecution has the wrong person;
- Lack of intent to deprive the person of property; or
- Honest belief in your right to claim the property.
Steps to Take if You’ve Been Charged with Theft or Another Property Offense in Alabama
If you have been charged with theft or another property offense in Alabama, there are things that you should do (and avoid doing) that can protect you during the criminal process. These include:
- Exercise your right to remain silent – do not answer questions from police or the prosecution about the crime; instead, politely state that you are exercise your right to remain silent.
- Stay out of trouble – as the prosecution builds its case against you, one thing that will hurt your case is any further legal trouble. Lay low and show up for your scheduled court dates.
- Hire a lawyer – you have a constitutionally-protected right to competent legal counsel, which you should certainly exercise. Working with an attorney can greatly improve the outcome of your case.
Call Darley Law Today
When your future is on the line, don’t take a risk by attempting to represent yourself. If you have been charged with theft or another property offense in Alabama, reach out to the office of Darley Law today for a free consultation with our skilled criminal defense lawyer. Please visit our Mobile office in person, send us a message, or call 251-441-7772 to get started.