When someone steals another individual’s property, taking things without consent, this is a crime called theft. The thief either removes the property for their personal use, or takes over control of property, thus depriving the owner use of it. A major issue in determining that this is a crime involves intent. If the taker intended to deprive the owner or co-owner of property, that is theft.
Theft is also called larceny in many statutes, but both terms refer to the same activity. In Massachusetts, the crime of theft is referred to as a form of larceny. It is a non-violent crime of intent that can occur anywhere. In Massachusetts, the most common felony theft crimes include:
- Larceny by stealing – from a person or in a building
- Larceny by check
- Larceny of lease or rented property
- Larceny of a motor vehicle
- Larceny by embezzlement
Theft is an Intent Crime
The items taken must be removed for unlawful reasons, and in some states, the property does not even need to be taken away, just control of it taken from the owner. Another key point in determining charges is that the property must belong to someone else. If a person takes property that it theirs, but it is under control of someone else, removing their own property would not constitute a crime. There are other stipulations that involve ownership and control. If several people own something and one of them takes that property away from the other co-owners, it could be theft. Simply taking property from someone else who has a better claim of ownership of that property, with intent to deprive them of it, is a crime, no matter where that event happens.
Felony Larceny & Theft – Over $250
The severity of criminal charges for theft/larceny is based on the value of the property that was stolen. When that value is less than $250, it is called petty theft, a misdemeanor in most cases. If the items taken are valued at more than $250, the charge is for grand theft, or felony theft. Each state sets their own value level for what is considered a misdemeanor or a felony larceny offense.
Charges also may be increased according to the number of larcenies that were committed at one time. The court may decide the entire theft is one larceny, or that the theft involved multiple larceny offenses. If the overview is a multiple theft, the suspect would face a higher degree of felony charge due to the combined value of items taken. If each item is charged separately, the suspect could benefit from only being charged with misdemeanors.
Felony Theft Punishment
Judges have discretion in handing out felony theft punishment. However, if you are found guilty of felony theft (stealing an item worth over $250), you could receive a prison sentence of up to five years and be fined up to $25,000. Each state has its own punishment options, with some lower and others much higher than those of Massachusetts.
A judge will take into consideration the total value of items taken and all circumstances of the crime. If there were multiple larcenies in a short period of time or all at the same time, the punishment could be for a felony rather than a misdemeanor. This would mean longer jail time and higher monetary penalties. Another factor considered by a judge is whether the crime involved any aggravation or threats, or if there were mitigating circumstances.
Felony Theft Defense
Felony Larceny & Theft is a criminal offense, with strong penalties. If you are accused of this crime, it is essential that you obtain swift protection from an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney. To successfully prosecute a suspect for felony theft, each element of the crime must be proven by the state. A strong defense would include challenging these elements.
In Massachusetts, the court must prove that the suspect (1) obtained property they did not own, (2) intended to take that property from the true owner and, (3) separated, not necessarily removed physically, the property from its owner. If you separated property from an owner, that is enough to prove larceny.
There are some situations that a suspect may claim for defense against felony theft. Stealing from a spouse is not theft, unless the couple is separated. A suspect may claim they were going to return the property, but then they also must prove ability to do so. Another plea may be that the items taken were already illicit, but that would have no bearing on the charge of theft. The convicting element is that the suspect took items they did not own.
Other claims of innocence are that the suspect believed they honestly believed they had a right to the property. They may have been entrapped into committing the crime by another person, or that they had consent to take property. Duress is another possible defense claim if the suspect was somehow forced by someone else to steal property.
Criminal Defense Felony Lawyer
If you are charged with felony theft or larceny, you need to seek immediate legal advice and representation from an experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer. The lawyer will carefully examine all evidence of the theft claims that are placed against you, challenge the value of items taken or how the state calculated the worth of the property. It may be possible to get felony charges reduced to the lesser misdemeanor level, which will greatly decrease the punishment potential. If there are multiple charges by the state, lumping several petty theft/larceny charges into one bigger felony charge, your Criminal Defense Attorney may be able to get some charges dismissed. Facing a misdemeanor is far better for you than facing a felony charge.
Do not hesitate to seek help from an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney if there is any possibility that you might be charged or have been accused of a felony theft/larceny crime. The offense is serious and will affect your future and possibly your freedom.