Theft Crimes cover a wide range of criminal activity.  They include:

  • Robbery
  • Armed robbery
  • Petty theft
  • Grand larceny
  • Shoplifting
  • Motor vehicle theft
  • Burglary
  • Possession of stolen property
  • Fraud and other ‘white collar ‘crimes

In 2004 there were 100,980 property crimes in Mississippi, of which 27,661 were burglaries, 65,404 were thefts, and 7,879 were vehicle thefts.

Felony or misdemeanor?

Whether or not the crime is a felony or misdemeanor depends on the value of the property stolen.  Petty theft – also known as petit (pronounced petty) larceny is where property with a value of less than $500 is stolen.  This is a misdemeanor for a first offense.  The penalty can be up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Grand larceny is where the value of the property stolen is $500 or more.  This is a felony and you can be sentenced to 10 years in jail and a fine of $10,000.

The same principles apply in shoplifting and charges of being in possession of stolen property.  If the value of the property stolen is less than $500 then the crime is a misdemeanor and if the value is more then the crime is a felony.

Clearly the value of the property allegedly stolen is of vital significance in presenting a defense against theft charges.

All motor vehicle thefts are felonies regardless of the value of the vehicle.

What is a theft?

In most cases for there to be a theft, the accused has to steal or carry away the property of the rightful owner, without the consent of the owner with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of his/her property.  If you were to borrow a neighbor’s hedge trimmer without his permission but with the intention of returning it then it is not a theft.

If you find and keep lost property you are not guilty of theft if you don’t know the identity of the owner or have reasonable grounds for not knowing his identity

With a motor vehicle theft even a temporary removal of the vehicle is a theft.

Burglary on its own is not a theft crime. It is the act of breaking into somebody else’s property with the intention of committing any crime.  The intended crime does not have to be theft, although it most commonly is, and the intended crime could be arson, vandalism or assault on the occupier.  Burglary is defined by the act of breaking in and not the intended crime.  Breaking into a house with the intention of stealing property would be both a burglary and a theft.

A charge of being in possession of stolen property can arise if the accused is in possession of stolen property, or has passed the property on, and the accused knows that it has been stolen, or has reasonable grounds for believing that the property has been stolen.

As with all crimes if firearms are used during the course of a theft then the penalties become more severe, with mandatory additions to the jail sentence.

Theft crimes cover a complex mix of definitions – for example different criteria will apply if you are charged with a motor vehicle theft as compared with shoplifting.  If accused of theft it is therefore vital that you obtain the advice of an attorney as quickly as possible.