There are a number of reasons why someone may commit a theft crime. You don’t have enough money. It’s so easy. You get a thrill out of it. You have no other option.
And then there are those who may find themselves charged or under investigation even though they are completely innocent. Whatever your circumstances are, though, theft is a crime that Minnesota takes very seriously, so you need to do the same.
The first step is understanding your theft charges. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, because a theft offense can cover a number of different types of crimes. Let’s look at what specifically is involved if you are charged with a theft crime, and then look at the penalties associated with that crime if you’re convicted.
Theft Law in Minnesota
Theft in our state is kind of like an umbrella. It’s a general crime that covers a bunch of specific crimes that fall under one broad category.
Under Minnesota law, you commit theft if you:
- Knowingly take, use, transfer, conceal, or retain possession of someone else’s property without permission and with the intent to deprive the owner of that property permanently
- Take possession, custody, or title to property or services by knowingly deceiving someone else with a false representation
- File a false medical claim
- Find lost property and make no reasonable attempt to get the property back to its owner
- Rent or lease personal property but don’t return the property or pay for it
- Knowingly deprive someone else of a lawful charge for cable TV or another telecommunication service
- Take or drive a car or other motor vehicle without the owner’s permission
So, theft isn’t just about taking something without permission. Yes, if you take something without the owner’s consent, you are committing theft crime. But finding lost – or stolen – property and not trying to get that property back to its rightful owner is also considered theft. Even if you didn’t take the property from its owner to begin with.
Minnesota – like most states – looks at theft offenses according to the dollar value of the property and services taken. Sometimes, the courts will also look at the type of property taken.
- Property valued under $500. A petty theft misdemeanor – the lowest level of a theft offense in Minnesota – happens when the value of the property or services taken is less than $500. Petty theft is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.
- Property valued $500 to $1,000. If you steal property or services valued between $500 and $1,000, you could face a fine up to $3,000 and up to one year in jail.
- Property valued $1,000 to $5,000. If you steal property or services valued between $1,000 and $5,000, you could face a fine up to $10,000 and up to 5 years in jail. At this level, theft offenses also include:
- Theft of a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance
- Theft of property or services valued between $500 and $1,000 when the person has a similar, prior conviction within 5 years in Minnesota or somewhere else
- Theft of property valued under $1,000 when it is taken from a grave, corpse, or coffin; is a court or public record; is taken during a disaster or riot; or is a motor vehicle
- Property valued more than $5,000. If you steal property or services valued more than $5,000, you could face a fine up to $20,000 and up to 10 years in jail. At this level, theft offenses also include:
- Trade secret theft
- Explosive or incendiary device theft
- Schedule I or II controlled substance theft that isn’t marijuana
- Property valued more than $35,000. This is the most serious theft offense under Minnesota law. If you steal property or services worth more than $35,000, you could face a fine up to $100,000 and spend up to 20 years in jail. At this level, theft offenses also include:
- Theft of a firearm – at any value
- Theft valued over $35,000 with aggravating circumstances such as fraud, deception, or a vulnerable adult victim
In addition to criminal penalties like fines and prison time, someone who commits theft is also liable to the property owner for the amount equal to the stolen property’s value. The offender is also liable to the owner for punitive damages equaling $50 or no more than 100% of the property’s value – whichever value is greater.
As you can see, theft is taken seriously in Minnesota. Even a petty theft could cost you money and time in prison. That’s why it’s important to contact an experienced Minnesota theft defense attorney if you’ve been charged with a theft crime so you can fight those charges.
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).