Grand theft (e.g. stealing $100,000-worth of jewelry) is obviously a serious charge, as it carries serious consequences that can follow you for years.
Petty theft (e.g. stealing a $25 shirt), also known as shoplifting, on the other hand, are often dismissed as simply “no big deal.” Also called “fourth degree” theft, “petty larceny”, or “conversion”, practically everyone has probably heard this type of crime and pretty much what it means. Many do not realize, however, just how serious the crime is.
Don’t be fooled by the name. It may have the word “petty” in it, but this crime carries up to a year in jail and a fine of $5,000 in states like Indiana, according to a lawyer at Ericrisk.net. This means you may also need a lawyer.
Specifics of the Crime
The law defines theft as taking someone else’s property without consent, and with the intent to keep it for yourself. The thing stolen can be anything — money, clothes, jewelry — as long as it has value.
Some states categorize this crime into grand theft and petty theft. Theft of someone’s property worth over $400 is consider grand theft. All other thefts are classified as petty theft.
Short and Long-Term Consequences of the Crime
As mentioned, the punishment for petty theft is usually a fine, a few days or months in jail, or both. It’s usually up to the judge to decide on the sentence you’ll get.
Apart from the theft conviction, petty crime also has other long-term consequences. Because theft offenses are crimes of “moral aptitude”, it must be mentioned in job applications, as well as certain loan and licensing applications.
Defending Against Petty Theft Charges
If you are facing criminal charges for petty theft, hire a criminal defense lawyer depending on the case. An attorney can inform you of any defenses you can use for your case.
How the law defines theft is the first place a criminal defense attorney looks into when looking for possible defenses. If any element of a theft offense is missing or can’t be proved, the charges may be reduced.
“Petty theft” is surely considered a minor offense, but the legal consequences are not always “petty”. When charged with this crime, it pays to talk to a lawyer. Chances are, you won’t have a criminal record to worry about.