The holiday season is a time for showing your appreciation to the people in your life. One of the biggest ways we do this is the practice of gift-giving and receiving. This is why merchandise sales see a substantial increase this time of year.
However, the holiday season doesn’t just lead to an increase in merchandise sales – sadly, there is a big increase in theft as well.
The Holiday Season and Theft in Minnesota
Our state is no exception to this. The holiday season of 2018 saw three Minnesota men charged with a series of shoplifting thefts. Fleet Farm, Target, and Menards were all victims of these acts.
Beyond shoplifting, regular people are often the victims of theft as well. One of the biggest ways this happens is delivery theft. What’s that? Well, with more and more people shopping online, it means that there are a lot more packages being delivered right to their doors. This has given rise to a relatively new form of theft – package theft.
In 2018, there were 200 instances of package theft in St. Paul alone. Police departments are aware of this increased rate of theft during the holiday seasons, with some departments going so far as to issue public warnings.
As you might imagine, police are extra vigilant during the holidays for these acts of theft, and offenders may face serious penalties.
Defining Theft in Minnesota
A classic definition of theft is where an individual takes or gains possession of a piece of property with the intention of depriving the owner of said property. However, in Minnesota, theft is a broad term that can encompass a wide variety of acts.
Shoplifting would be classified as an act of theft in Minnesota. Individuals who commit an act of shoplifting are subject to the same penalties as other acts of theft. Something else important to understand – shoplifting covers quite a few more acts beyond just taking items from a store without paying for them.
In addition, finding a piece of property but making no reasonable attempt to return it to its original owner can also be considered an act of theft.
Regardless of the way the act of theft was committed, the charges are equally severe.
Criminal Penalties for Theft in Minnesota
The criminal penalties for even petty theft can be quite severe in the state of Minnesota. Why? Because theft in Minnesota is considered an aggregated crime.
This means that – according to the law – if a string of thefts are committed within a six-month period, the total financial amount of all the acts within that period would be used to determine the penalty.
The criminal penalties for theft in Minnesota are as follows:
|Theft of less than $500 in property value.||Misdemeanor||Maximum sentence of up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.|
|Theft of property value between $500 to $1000.||Gross misdemeanor||Maximum sentence of up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine up to $3,000.|
|Theft of property value between $1000 to $5000.||Felony||Maximum sentence of up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.|
|Theft of property value between $5,000 to $35,000.||Felony||Maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $20,000.|
|Theft of property value over $35,000.||Felony||Maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine up to $100,000.|
As illustrated by the chart above, each classification of theft carries significantly stricter penalties. Two misdemeanor thefts within the same six months could see a 90-day sentence turn into a 1-year sentence.
Moreover, the state of Minnesota also recognizes that there is a civil liability in cases of theft. That means the shoplifter may be liable to pay the owner the full value of the property at the time it was stolen plus punitive damages. The punitive damages are valued at $50 dollars or 100% value of the property at the time it was stolen. It is determined by whichever amount is greater.
If you are charged with holiday theft or shoplifting, it is important to know that regardless of the severity of the theft, you have rights. Consulting a lawyer and discussing your case will help you understand the possible defenses to theft relevant to you.
This holiday season, be wary. Not only are acts of theft significantly more common this time of year, law enforcement knows this. That means police agencies are on the lookout for shoplifters and package thefts – if you’re charged, you can face severe penalties.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).