Being charged with theft can be an embarrassing and stressful experience. It is a broad offense, covering anything from simple shoplifting to complex white-collar fraud. It is always a severe matter, whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony theft charges in Indiana.
A theft conviction may affect every aspect of your life – your career, relationships, and reputation. However, with the help of a reliable Indiana criminal defense lawyer, a theft charge does not have to ruin your life. You may have options for defending the criminal charge and getting it dismissed.
Theft is a charge that can range from shoplifting to allegations that involve stealing money and property worth millions of dollars. Whether charged with petty shoplifting or arrested for property theft, theft crimes can come with lasting consequences and significant legal penalties. If you or a loved one has been charged with a theft crime, our credible Elkhart theft lawyers can review your case, explain your rights, and discuss your legal options.
At Wilson & Kinsman LLC, we have extensive experience in handling theft, burglary, and robbery cases. We have been representing numerous clients in Elkhart and neighboring counties in Indiana. With us on your side, you can significantly increase the odds of securing the best possible result in your criminal case. We can help you understand the charges against you and your available legal options.
We can help you safeguard your rights and future. Contact us now and schedule an initial consultation.
Theft or larceny is a broad term that can cover various criminal offenses. In Indiana, prosecutors can charge you with a theft offense if you knowingly or intentionally exert control over another person’s property without permission and with the intent to deprive that person of their property. It is the element of intent where most complex legal challenges typically arise in theft-related cases.
Many states classify theft charges based on the value of the money or property allegedly stolen. A knowledgeable Elkhart theft attorney can help you understand the nature of the charge. The typical elements of theft or larceny include:
- taking someone’s money or personal property without permission;
- carrying the property away; and
- intending to keep the property permanently.
Many jurisdictions create degrees of theft crimes. If you have been arrested for theft, you have either been charged with petty theft or grand theft. A qualified theft lawyer in Elkhart, IN, can help you determine the difference between these charges.
Petty thefts are categorized as relatively minor crimes, also known as misdemeanors. This theft usually occurs when a person steals property below a defined value specified by law. The amount of a theft classified as “petty” varies depending on the jurisdiction. You may be charged with petty theft for taking money or property worth less than $1000.
Grand theft occurs when the property stolen is worth more than the limit for petty theft. Property value will be established by looking at the property’s fair market value at the time and place the offense was committed. Grand theft is considered a felony. This is the most serious category of offenses and can have severe consequences for individuals convicted of such crimes.
What are the Penalties for Theft Charges in Indiana?
In many states, theft or larceny can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the type of stolen property or its value. The penalties for these charges can vary based on what was allegedly stolen, attempted to be stolen, or other implications involved in the case. Indiana courts do not hold back when penalizing those convicted of theft charges at any level.
Potential penalties for theft or fraud convictions are no laughing matter and may include jail time, probation, fines, and restitution to the victim. You need a skilled Elkhart theft attorney to help you avoid these harsh penalties.
Level 5 Felony Theft
The theft offense is classified as a Level 5 felony when a property is valued to be worth more than $50,000. Level 5 Felony conviction is punishable by:
- Prison sentence between 1 to 6 years
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Level 6 Felony Theft
When a property is valued between $750 and $49,999, the theft offense is categorized as a Level 6 Felony. A conviction is punishable by:
- Incarceration between 6 months to two and a half years
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Class A Misdemeanor Theft
When a property is valued at less than $750, the theft offense is classified as a Class A Misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by:
- A maximum of 12 months of incarceration
- Up to $5,000 in fines
What are the Defenses Against Theft Charges in Indiana?
Even if the underlying facts support the claim that the defendant took property from another party without permission, several possible legal defenses may apply in theft cases. A competent Elkhart theft lawyer can help you build potential defense strategies in which you would plead not guilty, aim for a plea bargain, or strive to reduce the charges against you.
Claim of Ownership
One of the most basic theft charge defenses is to claim you are the rightful owner of the property that was allegedly stolen. This defense can be used in any theft case, provided there is evidence supporting your ownership of the property. This type of defense can be complicated, as it often requires presenting evidence, such as receipts or pictures, to prove that you are the legal owner of the property in question.
The defense of entrapment applies when an individual commits a crime but was induced to do so by someone else. It occurs when someone commits an illegal act at the request or encouragement of a law enforcement officer. If you can show that you committed theft only because a police officer specifically instructed you to do so, this may result in charges being dropped against you.
Intoxication can be a powerful theft charge defense, as it can lead to a lack of intent to commit theft. If you can prove your intoxication at the time, which led to your criminal actions, you may be able to have the theft charges dropped. However, please note that intoxication alone is not enough to have theft charges dropped. You must also prove that you did not have the intent to commit theft.
Return of Property as a Theft Defense
Returning stolen property generally does not provide a defense to a charge of theft. However, returning the property can make you appear more sympathetic to a prosecutor for purposes of a possible plea deal. To use this defense strategy successfully, you must prove you returned the property that was allegedly stolen. Returning the stolen items may also help with reducing the penalties.
A theft charge can be life-altering. A conviction carries severe consequences, including hefty fines, jail time, and extreme damage to a person’s reputation. Having a criminal record can also create barriers to finding employment and providing for one’s family.
If theft charges have been brought against you, you must seek legal advice from our seasoned Elkhart theft lawyers at Wilson & Kinsman LLC. Our criminal defense law firm will help you understand your rights and do what you can to fight the theft charges. We will help you navigate the Indiana criminal justice system, protect your freedom, and work to achieve the best possible outcome.
We will aggressively defend you against any criminal charges you face. Contact our law firm now and schedule an initial case evaluation.