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What is Petty Theft?

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Petty theft is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by fines, probation, community service, restitution and in some states, jail time. At the most basic level, theft can be defined as controlling or obtaining the property or service of another without express or implied consent, with the intent of depriving that person of the property or service by deception, threat or intimidation.

  1. A theft is deemed as a petty or misdemeanor offense if the value of the property or service is less than a specific dollar amount, generally $500.00 though this can vary by state.
  2. When determining the punishment for a petty theft offense, the courts will review the defendants history, the nature of the crime, any mitigating circumstances that might affect the conviction.

Individuals that have prior convictions for theft or related crimes will receive enhanced penalties, including felony charges. In many states, aggravated circumstances, like committing a crime against the elderly or disabled, using force or weapon during the commission of the crime, stealing a dog for dog fighting, or stealing a firearm, can increase the classification of a misdemeanor to a felony.

General Penalties

Fines for petty theft across the U.S. Range from $10.00 to $5,000.00 with many courts also ordering the addition of restitution to the victim. Most courts will also require the defendant to attend related counseling programs.

Standard jail term penalties for petty theft are almost always less than a year unless the penalty is enhanced, i.e., in Rhode Island where the jail term can run up to 10 years with a $5,000.00 fine and probation equaling one-third the sentenced jail term if the property taken was from a person under the age of 18.

Delaware is another state with severe penalties including up to a $2300.00 fine, a one year jail term, a year of probation as well as community service.

Deferred Judgment Programs

First time offenders may qualify for a deferred judgment or diversion program, where the state drops the charges against you, which keeps the crime from being entered in your record, provided you do not commit any crime during a probation period. If you qualify for a diversion program, you are still required pay fines and court fees.

Petty theft is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by fines, probation, community service, restitution and in some states, jail time. At the most basic level, theft can be defined as controlling or obtaining the property or service of another without express or implied consent with the intent of depriving that person of the property or service by deception, threat or intimidation.

 

A theft is deemed as a petty or misdemeanor offense if the value of the property or service is less than a specific dollar amount, generally $500.00 though this can vary by state.

 

When determining the punishment for a petty theft offense, the courts will review the defendants history, the nature of the crime, any mitigating circumstances that might affect the conviction.

 

Individuals that have prior convictions for theft or related crimes will receive enhanced penalties, including felony charges. In many states, aggravated circumstances, like committing a crime against the elderly or disabled, using force or weapon during the commission of the crime, stealing a dog for dog fighting, or stealing a firearm, can increase the classification of a misdemeanor to a felony.

 

General Penalties

Fines for petty theft across the U.S. Range from $10.00 to $5,000.00 with many courts also ordering the addition of restitution to the victim. Most courts will also require the defendant to attend related counseling programs.

 

Standard jail term penalties for petty theft are almost always less than a year unless the penalty is enhanced, i.e., in Rhode Island where the jail term can run up to 10 years with a $5,000.00 fine and probation equaling one-third the sentenced jail term if the property taken was from a person under the age of 18.

Delaware is another state with severe penalties including up to a $2300.00 fine, a one year jail term, a year of probation as well as community service.

 

Deferred Judgment Programs

First time offenders may qualify for a deferred judgment or diversion program, where the state drops the charges against you, which keeps the crime from being entered in your record, provided you do not commit any crime during a probation period. If you qualify for a diversion program, you are still required pay fines and court fees.

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