What is the Legal Definition of Theft?
Also commonly referred to as larceny, theft is the taking of another person's personal property with the intent of depriving that person of the use of their property. Theft is typically divided into grand theft and petty theft. If the value of the goods is over a certain amount determined by state laws (see below), then the act will be elevated to grand theft. The type of goods stolen may also affect whether the theft is grand or petty.
What is Larceny and How is it Different from Theft?
Larceny is a type of theft that encompasses a group of crimes that involve the unlawful taking and carrying away of another's property. Theft is a broader term that applies to any crime which involves taking someone else's property with the intent to deprive that person of its possession.
Felony Theft Amount by State 2023
Most U.S. states have a felony theft threshold between $1,000 and 1,500. In 22 states, theft becomes a felony if you steal over $1,000 in goods. In Massachusetts and Nevada, the figure is $1,200. Ten more states -- Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Utah -- set the number at $1,500.
Ten states have a threshold below $1,000. New Jersey has the lowest threshold in the United States at $200. Other states that prosecute for felony theft with a very small amount of value include:
- Illinois ($500)
- New Mexico ($500)
- Florida ($750)
- Hawaii ($750)
- Indiana ($750)
- Missouri ($750)
- Washington ($750)
- Vermont ($900)
- California ($950)
What is the Penalty for Felony Theft?
The penalty for being convicted of a felony-level theft is more serious than a misdemeanor penalty. Felonies in most states carry a potential punishment of 1 year or more in prison and a fine of $2,000 or more. However, the actual penalties for felony theft can differ significantly, depending on the state, circumstances of the case, and prior criminal history of the defendant(s).
Related Article: Is Robbery a Felony?
Misdemeanor and Felony Theft Statute of Limitations
If you get charged with misdemeanor petty theft, the statute of limitations is typically 1 year in most states. If the prosecution fails to enter charges during this period, they will be barred from filing them in the future.
If a judge rules that theft is a felony, the statute of limitations will likely be raised to 3 years. Some examples of theft crimes that are commonly charged as a felony include robbery, first-degree burglary, and grand theft of a firearm.
- Accessory Before the Fact and Accessory After the Fact
- What Is The First Amendment?
- What Is A Misdemeanor?
Get a Free Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers
The Product Liability Litigation Group at Schmidt & Clark, LLP law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new legal challenges in all 50 states.
If you or a loved one was injured, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.