In Indiana, there are many reasons for which a person can be charged with theft. In addition, the severity of the charges will vary based on what was taken. It goes beyond a simple allegation of stealing a piece of property from an individual or an establishment.
Since these cases can be complex, a defense needs to be specifically tailored to the crime and its potential consequences. Along with knowing what constitutes theft, people also need to understand what evidence will be used for prosecutors to try and secure a conviction. This can be integral to a defense.
Understanding theft and if it is a misdemeanor or a felony
According to Indiana law, theft is when a person takes control of another person’s property without authorization to do so. In general, it starts as a Class A misdemeanor. The crime itself and the value of the property will dictate how the case is charged.
It will be a Level 6 felony if the property is valued between $750 and less than $50,000. It will also be a Level 6 felony if the item stolen is a motor vehicle or a component of a motor vehicle. Those who have a past conviction for theft, robbery or burglary will also be charged with a Level 6 felony.
Property that is valued at a minimum of $50,000 will result in a Level 5 felony if it is also related to transportation safety, public safety or is taken from a critical infrastructure facility, public utility, telecommunications provider, health care facility or hospital. This applies if a motor vehicle or component was taken. A person who steals a firearm will face a Level 5 felony. Regarding the property valuation, it hinges on its fair market value.
Evidence is the linchpin for any criminal charge
It is also crucial to understand what evidence law enforcement and prosecutors might use to prove that theft took place. If there is a clear indicator that it is on display for sale, then this shows that it is owned by someone and taking it without paying for it or authorization will be a crime.
The person accused of theft might have altered the price tag or other identifier; they could have transferred it from its packaging to reduce its price or taken it without paying for it. Concealing property and removing it from the place of business where it was for sale is also considered evidence of theft.
The penalties for theft can be severe and fighting the charges is imperative
Anyone can be accused of theft. It is not simply a crime that young people take part in through shoplifting, auto theft, as some form of a social media “challenge” or taking other items that do not belong to them. It can happen to anyone whether it is one alleged incident or a series of them.
Because these crimes and the penalties can vary and people’s freedom and reputation can be negatively affected because of it, it is essential to know how the system works. That includes having a full explanation as to what the charges mean, assuaging unfounded beliefs about the legal system and having local advice that is familiar with the area, the courthouse workers and knows how to move forward with an effective criminal defense.
There are viable alternatives to fight criminal charges. The evidence could be flawed, the person might have an alibi, there could be a reasonable explanation for what happened or there could be plea bargains available to reduce or dismiss the charges. From the outset, it is wise to know the available avenues and to take the necessary steps to address the charges as soon as possible.