Theft crimes range quite dramatically in state and federal law. Shoplifting a few small items at the local mall won’t be penalized as harshly as thefts that involve violence or items that are worth thousands of dollars. Simple aggravating factors can turn a misdemeanor into a felony, eliminating many basic rights that are still given to misdemeanants.
Review the basics of when theft crimes become a felony in Minnesota. The difference in penalties for misdemeanor and felony crimes can have an effect on the rest of your life, so it’s important to know what you are up against.
Theft of over $1,000
The main factor in the level of theft charges you will face is the value of the stolen property. If you are accused of stealing over $1,000 worth of property, you may be hit with felony theft charges. The penalties for stealing over $1,000 of property start at up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines. If the value of the property is over $5,000, the penalties will increase even further.
Theft of at Least $500 (with Previous Offenses on Your Record)
Even if you steal as little as $500 worth of merchandise, you can still be hit with a felony charge. How so? A record of theft can bump up your charges.
Specifically, if you were convicted on theft charges within the last five years, and you are charged with stealing between $500 and $1,000 worth of merchandise, you could face felony charges. This rule applies even if you were convicted of theft outside of Minnesota.
Theft of a Firearm
The items that you are accused of stealing could have a severe effect on what charges you face. When you steal a firearm of any value, you face penalties equivalent to stealing over $35,000 worth of “regular” property. The following penalties may also apply if you used fraud or deceit to steal the property, or committed a theft crime against a vulnerable adult:
- Up to 20 years behind bars
- A fine of up to $100,000
Theft of Controlled Substances
Controlled substances include any substance that is either illegal or regulated by state law. Prescription medications, marijuana, and “harder” drugs are all considered controlled substances. If any of these substances are included in the property that you allegedly stole, you might face felony charges. It doesn’t matter if you only stole $60 worth of a specific controlled substance; you can still face severe penalties.
Penalties for theft of controlled substances are determined by the classification of the controlled substances in question. If you are convicted of stealing any amount of a Schedule III, Schedule IV, or Schedule V controlled substance, you may face up to five years behind bars and fines of up to $10,000.
More severe illegal substances may result in increased penalties. If you are convicted of stealing Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances, you will face up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. (If you are accused of stealing marijuana, however, you will not face penalties this severe.)
You may face similar charges if you are accused of stealing the following:
- An article representing a trade secret
- An explosive or incendiary device
Theft by Trick
The means that you use to commit theft may also increase your charges. Minnesota has a charge called “theft by trick,” which is also known as “theft by swindle.”
Penalties for swindling are more serious than they might sound. You could face up to up to 20 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines if you are convicted. If corporate property is involved in the theft, you may also face similar penalties.
Build a Strong Defense Strategy against Your Minnesota Theft Charges
In addition to the penalties mentioned above, a felony conviction will result in the following:
- Loss of the right to possess or purchase firearms
- Inability to own certain business licenses
- Inability to hold certain jobs in Minnesota
- Loss of the right to vote while you are incarcerated, on probation or parole
Universities, landlords, and employers may also ask about your criminal history, and whether or not you were convicted of a felony. Do not let a theft charge affect your ability to rent an apartment or get the job of your dreams.
There are defense strategies available for people accused of felony theft crimes in Minnesota. Reach out to a Minnesota defense lawyer for more information on which strategies are most appropriate in your case.
About the Author:
A former prosecutor and lifelong Minnesotan, Christian Peterson has handled hundreds of criminal cases from both sides of the aisle since he began practicing law in 2006, as well as a wide variety of family law matters. This background allows him to look at situations from all angles and anticipate which arguments the other side may use, increasing his clients’ chances of success. His work has been recognized by the American Society of Legal Advocates, the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, and National Trial Lawyers, and he has a perfect 10/10 rating from Avvo.